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Calliope 2000 







Armstrong Atlantic State University 

Volume XVII 



m 



ARMSTRONG ATLANTIC 

STATE UNIVERSITY 

LIBRARY 



Staff 



Managing Editors 



Maryanna Axson 
Mike Rios 



Art Editor 



Michelle Woodson 



Staff 



Steve Austin 
Erin Helmey 
Kathy Hutcherson 
Don Newman 
Seth Riley 
Jason Richardson 
Stacy Sims 



Faculty Advisor 



Dr. Christopher Baker 



Calliope is published annually by and for the students and faculty of 
Armstrong Atlantic State University. Funding is provided by the Student 
Government Association of AASU. Submissions are selected according to 
anonymous votes. Outstanding selections receive the Lillian Spenser 
Awards and the Art Award. 



Submissions are accepted throughout the fall semester for the following 
year's publication. Submissions should include the student's address and 
phone number, and may be placed in one of the Calliope collection boxes 
located around campus, or mailed to: Calliope, Gamble Hall, Armstrong 
Atlantic State University, 11935 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419. 



A Note from the Editors 



For the past sixteen years, Calliope has been the medium through 
which many of Armstrong's students and staff have not only expressed but 
shared their creative talents with others on campus and in the community. 
We are confident that in the following pages, you will find that this tradi- 
tion continues. We understand that many of you may be expecting a wordy 
introduction to this year's edition, but we feel that the high quality of the 
poetry, prose, and artwork showcased in this volume more than speaks for 
itself. So please, turn the page, and enjoy the first Calliope of the twenty- 
first century. 



Table of Contents 



Poetry 

Egesticulation by Jason Richardson 12 

School of Fish byErinHelmey 23 

A Word to the Wise by Laura Bonney. 25 

UR (2Y) 2C by Patrick LaPollo II 37 

Dogmatic Method by Andrew Sparrow 50 

Lost Love by Erica Bryant 52 

beast of burden byErinHelmey 54 

^MM£bySashaMcBrayer. 60 

* Obedience by Andrew Sparrow 61 

Subtlety by Jason Richardson 63 

Can a Moment Choose Depression? by Sharon K. Smith 65 

Inevitable by Adrian Godbee 75 

Dear Mr. Whitman by Adrian Godbee 78 

sanctuary by Gregory Vaughn 80 

An Answer to Death by Heidi Hogue 86 

Searching by Adrian Godbee 88 

Gone by Kimberly Porter 100 

REM by Erica Bryant 106 

Prose 

The Blind Leading the Blind by Steve Austin 14 

Pen-Pal by Richard DiPirro 29 

Heaven by Robert Lurie 38 

Births of Dreams by Heidi Hogue 56 

The Art of Breaking-In New Furniture byRobZanin 67 

Mirrored Results byErinHelmey 82 

* Quiet River by Richard DiPirro 91 

For Want of Slumber by Mike Rios 102 

Scattered Showers by Seth Riley. 108 



Art 

On the cover: Angelus by Ashley Chavis, acrylic on canvas 

Lindsay's Wolf by Mike Rios 11 

View by Michelle Woodson 13 

Persephone s Kiss by Elizabeth Pferschy 22 

Towards the Shadows byPiaKokko 24 

Claw by Steve Coward 27 

Lenny by Maryanna Axson 28 

My Monet by Bill Bates 33 

Heretic by Andrew Sparrow 34 

Portrait of "Bob" by Amy Lyn Kidane 35 

* untitled by Sharon McCusker. 36 

untitled by Paula M. Cates 49 

Feet by Michelle Woodson 51 

untitled by Patrick LaPollo II 53 

My Thinking Place by Natalie von Loewenfeldt 55 

Reunited by Heidi Hogue 59 

Screw You by Paula M. Cates 62 

The Leaf by MzWrnB. Samuel 64 

Tybee 's Thumbprint by Rekha Prakash 66 

untitled by Kellie Easterling 71 

untitled by Robert McCorkle 72 

Theory of Flight by Jennifer Cohen 73 

Under the Pier by Kathy Hutcherson 74 

untitled by Keemba Davis 76 

Electric Eyes byPiaKokko 77 

untitled by Rekha Prakash 79 

Union by Mike Rios 81 

untitled by Elizabeth Pferschy. 85 

untitled by Rachael Dubberly 87 

untitled by Elizabeth Pferschy 89 

untitled by Sandra Gupta 90 

untitled by Sharon McCusker. 99 

untitled by Jay Solomon 101 

Broken Down by Paula M. Cates 105 

untitled by Sandra Sumner. 107 

untitled by Kelley Brown 118 

* denotes award recipients 




Lindsay's Wolf 

Mike Rios 
pen and ink 



11 



[gesticulation 

Jason Richardson 



Slowly they move about my interior. 
Kneading my shadows with their tiny wet hands. 
Into an unfeeling phantom that forces me to 
Shed and slough my skin like a 
Venomous snake that discards its 
Tired shell in a quivering 
Dance of transmutation. 

My light has seen the darkness. 
My complacent mind has been 
Sundered. 
I'm reeling in a 
Desensitized metamorphosis. 

Small voices call to me 

In exacerbating tones. 

My many feet transform into 

Broken wings. 

My shadow is pushed and shoved 

Down a darkening tunnel. 

My matter's left crawling shadowless 

In a void full of shadows. 

I'm hollow. 

Echoing back false visions 

Of emptiness. 

Finally I rest. 
Cracked and collapsed, 
I curl and spin 
Deeper and deeper 
Into the void. 



12 




View 

Michelle Woodson 
silver gelatin print 



13 



The Blind Leading the Blind 

Steve Austin 



I'm crouched in a room with four walls and two floors. That may 
sound crazy but floors can be ceilings too from a certain point of view. 
Here I'm stuck between these walls like a turnip in the exhaust pipe of your 
hateful neighbors car, or maybe like constipation. These purple walls stand 
brutally close, but they give me my privacy and protection. I don't usually 
complain or seem ungrateful, these walls keep me safe from brain sucking 
snoops, from my landlord that lives next door, and speaking of her, I'm 
two days late on my 100 dollar per week rent of which I have 100% of 
fifty-two cents. You see, sometimes my thoughts and emotions leak out of 
my head, leaving a vacuum of empty space. They float around in the air 
like radio waves. Anyone near me just has to grab those thoughts and 
emotions out of the air and interpret them. These walls act like the lead 
that shields Kryptonite from Superman. But more and more this insulation 
feels like a vault. A lead vault. 

I live in a one-room apartment and it's small. There are five win- 
dows on three sides that rise from the chair rail to the ceiling. Thinking 
about the chair rails, I don't know why they're there. I have no chairs that 
need railing. And on top of the rails sit the windows, as I've already 
mentioned, and through these windows gleam thousands of beaming eyes. 
They watch me. They know me and all I do. I do, I do know they observe 
my daily routine. A routine that adds up to nearly nothing. Still it disturbs 
me. It would agitate you too. 

I feel bad today. And it's a riddle... or a puzzle... I'm uncertain 
which, but I speculate that my skepticism is reasonable and more notably, a 
reality, and a mystery. A mysterious reality. My mind doesn't work like the 
average mind, not like a machine rotating on a microinterval time slot 
spitting out information through a revolving door. No, my mind is more 
like a maze, but not a fixed maze. Every time I find the way the structure 
of its walls rearranges itself into a new design, a new scheme, with a new 
way out. I never really get anywhere, like now. I guess I feel bad because 
I'm in morbid lack of my chemicals... yes, that's it. My Lithium, it's run 
out on me. Dr. Siecco said, and I quote, "This medicine won't let you 
down." Well, that's how smart he is! He never mentioned that I would 
have to do without. He's so calculating, so punishing, so imperceivably 
malicious. It's not any sort of conspiracy, he works on me alone. And he 
has his plans. 

You must understand that I was in his office yesterday, which 
waasss... Friday, yesterday, and he was "out of town, out of town, out of 

14 



town," she says. I had to listen to that fat nurse babble her fat greasy lips 
about how "the alarm system has failed and that they couldn't fix it till 
Monday" and that "we've already paid them, they should come fix it today 
and bla bla bla." You know the kind. And I had to put up with this inanity 
for twenty-three minutes before she was "sorry to inform me that my 
medication couldn't be called in until Monday morning." I thought, "Mon- 
day... Monday!" I wanted to rip that big floppy mole off her face, but I 
didn't. I just proceeded to tell her just how fat she was and that she must 
be crazy to think that the alarm system technician should jump when she 
commanded. And I meant it. 

"Calm down," I said to myself. Let's see. Returning my thoughts 
to the room where there is hardly room to turn around, I opened my eyes 
to see that these walls think they can push me around, they want to confine 
me. But I'll show them. I'm going to Dr. Siecco's office and I'm going to 
tell that vastly overweight nurse that I'll get my medicine whether she, the 
F.D.A., the F.B.I, or I.R.A. condones, complies, vetoes or denies my 
actions. It's a long walk, we'll talk more when I get there. 

Imagine this, I walked all this way and they're "CLOSED SATUR- 
DAYS." I feel so... I'll tell you how I feel. I feel like the Wolf in the Three 
Little Pigs, huffing and puffing. But I won't, I can't, I have asthma. Oh 
but ah-ha, remembering the now very useful information that the maybe 
not-so-fat-nurse let slip out of her slippery lips — I contrived a plan. Aaaa 
plan. Through the window and in to the sample room I went. Chemicals 
chemicals and more chemicals. I should have been a chemist, doing experi- 
ments with hydrochloride, everything has got hydrochloride in it some- 
where, I'd be making elixirs like neon and nylon and rayon. Synthetics and 
naturals, it was all there. There were boxes of Xanax and boxes Zoloft and 
"sealed for your protection" packets Tranxine, Transadone, pink Paxile, the 
"doctor recommended" Prozac and the "wonder drug" Dilanta, my favorite 
Methadone and... there it is... LITHIUM. Yes! Lithium, my life-line. I felt 
like the alien in that dumb movie that picked up the hat and cane and burst 
out with "Hello my baby, Hello my darling." What movie was that? Any- 
way, in thirty-three minutes I'll feel the surge of sanity flush through my 
veins. Grabbing a whole case of Lithium and Methadone I scooted on out 
the drug store. As I began my way out, the way opposite of the way in, the 
phone rang and I'm confident I heard the voice of Andy Rooney telling me 
to "pick it up boy, it is definitely for you." I answered it cynically, "Dr. 
Siecco's chambers, may I help you" and this obviously mad woman was on 
the other end screaming in complete hysteria, which is something all 
women go through at one point or another. She had a deep rasping voice, 
liked she smoked three packs a day for twenty-two years, or like she had 
bronchitis the flu and a bad case of hemorrhoids, or like she had been on a 
two week drug binge. I pictured her with dark hair and overlapping 
wrinkles, and fat. This lady first stated that she had never been seen by Dr. 

15 



Siecco and then commenced to ranting about this and raving about that and 
crying and blubbering so that I could not make out what she was saying. 
As she went on the light bulb that was implanted in my head during my 
lobotomy last spring lit up. I mean my eyes could have been mistaken for a 
state trooper's mag light. I've contrived another plan. 

You see, since my diagnosis I've always wanted to be on the other 
side of the table, I've always dreamed of getting in someone else's head, 
scrambling a brain — like an egg. And if you can't have directed power you 
must get power by manipulation and what better mask to manipulate 
behind than that of a psychiatrist. It's a perfect disguise. The ambiguously 
crazy overly friendly face. I said to her, "if you'll shut your hole for a 
minute I can help you." I must have made a good impression because a 
burning silence crowded the moment, a gravity that I had not wanted. 
After I pulled myself together I told her that I was Dr. Siecco, and although 
I was the only one working today I could see her if and only if she could be 
here by four o'clock, it was now two-thirty. A genius I must be, I thought 
to myself, but it would have to be done carefully and would need some 
preparation. She said that she would come and smashed the phone down 
on the hook. Her phone fell into pieces and lay abandoned on the kitchen 
counter — all alone. I really felt for that telephone but I had no time to 
waste. 

"Thank you Andy," I shouted with an exclamation point! I made 
my way to the men's room and as I gazed into the mirror I noticed I 
needed some slight cleaning up. I ran home, showered, shaved, and put on 
a knit shirt and khaki pants, a dress Dr. Siecco often sported. I decided to 
put off taking my daily dose to add a spark to my personality. Half jogging 
half walking back to my office, careful not to work up a sweat, I felt a 
great excitement, a feeling of accomplishment and importance. Once back 
I scanned Dr. Siec... I mean, my bookshelf for a reference book and by luck 
I stumbled on the perfect resource. It was titled "Psychiatric Practices of 
the 19th Century." For a moment I thought the book to be out of date but 
I considered that being 1999 and the New Year was not for another three 
months, I could settle with its contents. 

The next thing I knew, I had gotten lost in the rather cruel treat- 
ments this book had to offer. I'm thankful that my doctor had not yet used 
these treatments on me. I guess he hadn't read this book lately. But just to 
be on the safe side I'll take the book with me when I leave." 

"What do you know," I said aloud, "it's two and a half minutes 
after four. On the Mahogany desk is one of those precise clocks that count 
the seconds and minutes, and hours, and days, and years. It even specifies 
the A.M. and P.M. A clock that could only belong to a man of science. 
You probably have to have some sort of scientist license or prescription to 
get one. 

One minute and forty-one seconds later, I heard the woman come 

16 



through the door saying, "hello." For the first time today, I felt scared, 
scared, this is scary. But there is some excitement to speak of and some- 
times the two cannot really be separated or split apart or split open. As I 
began to speak I started to tremble, my heart pounding, sweat secreting, 
shaking like one of those little vibrating massage things. 

"Come on back onto my office" I said maybe a little too loudly. 
She scurried in the door and sat down across from me in my real leather 
chair. I was right about the dark hair, it was long and jet black, but I must 
apologize about the other presumptions. She was tall, about six feet tall 
and long and slender with no wrinkles at all. She must have been thirty. A 
good thirty. She was voluptuous and vivacious with only one flaw. She 
was here, for treatment. "I wonder if she is gay," I said to myself. 

"Don't I have to fill out any forms?" 

"Ahhh..." I reached for a prescription pad and slid it across the 
smooth surface of my gorgeous Mahogany desk. "Just print your name, 
race and sexual prefer... I mean sex and I'll fill out the forms for you." 

"Well aren't my sex and race obvious?" 

"Oh... yes, yes, yes they are, I mean breasts like yours couldn't 
possibly belong to a man. I just need your information on that little pad 
there for ah... administrative purposes." 

"What ever. I have no insurance." 

"No insurance huh? Well that's a shame but no shame here. I will 
insur... I mean assure you that I have the lowest reputation... I mean, 
lowest rates in town. Cheap. Very cheap. Yes, cheap cheap cheap." 

"I'll believe that when I see it." 

"See what?" 

"The low rates," she said. 

"They say seeing is believing." 

"Yes they do." 

"Ah, but do they yes," I said. Quizzing her for attention, cognition, 
and perception. 

"What?" 

"No... nothing. As you were saying..." 

"I haven't said anything yet." 

"What?" 

"What? Look Dr. 'whatever your name is,' can we get started?" 

"By all means. Start by telling me what I couldn't understand over 
the phone. Here, take this first, it's methadone. It'll make you tingle 
inside. And why not a drink? Let's see... how about a whiskey and ginger, 
my nurse keeps me stocked. Listening to a bunch of lunatics chatter all day 
can make an alcoholic out of anyone. Not to mention crazy." 

"Well speaking of crazy, I think I'm going mad." 

17 



"We psychiatrists don't like using the word mad. We like to think 
of it as a mental disorder. But go on." 

"To start with, my husband is acting very odd lately. Him and that 
damn dog. He loves that dog but I think it's more than puppy love. He 
adores that dog. Ever since I've been having problems he sleeps in the 
spare bedroom, with Lovely, that's the dog's name. He won't go anywhere 
without her and he locks himself up in that room with Lovely and some- 
times when I try to go in, he won't open the door. He tells me to leave 
them alone. Leave them alone he says! I think he's having an affair with 
her. Does that seem unreasonable to you?" 

"Hey, who the hell am I to say what's odd and what isn't." 

"But it's much more than that, that's only the beginning." 

"Yes, go on." 

"Well, last week I was in my doctor's office having x-rays taken of 
my back and I felt them, the x-rays entering my neck and my skin started to 
tingle and I felt a burning sensation as they passed down my back in a hot 
tingling strip about six inches wide and then to my waist. Then they disap- 
peared into my stomach which felt cold and numb and solid like it was 
frozen. It's been keeping me from my afternoon erection." 

"I would think a woman like yourself couldn't get an erection." 

"Erection! I said reflection. They keep me from thinking. Reflec- 
tion!" 

"No you said erection." 

"I most certainly did not, I said reflection." 

"You said erect... never mind, either way your are going mad." 

"What a minute, you said you don't like using that word." 

"No, I said I don't like patients using that word." 

"Oh... I'm sorry, I misunderstood you." 

"Well that's perfectly normal for a mad woman." 

I really felt like we were getting somewhere, like I was helping this 
woman. I am smart you know. But I could feel the tension. She looked. I 
blinked. She scowled. I shuddered. The electrons in the air were thick, 
the molecules in her head were thin. I had to cut through the pressure, so I 
raised the blade and let it fall. 

"To be such a fool, you are very beautiful." 

"Well thank you doctor, I really admire you." 

"You do?" 

"Yes I do. May I ask, Doctor, what do you admire?" 

So I thought and I thought until finally, it came to me. "I admire 
clucking chickens, cud-chewing cows, mostly farm animals, and the wheel, 
the strength of the triangular shaped triangle, and quicksand... yes quick- 
sand! It's the ground on which nothing can stand. Enough about me, can 



you tell me anything else, Ms. Pluto?" 

"Sure, I can talk all day." 

"Well at forty-two dollars an hour I wouldn't recommend that." 

"Forty-two dollars an hour!" 

"That's the cheapest you'll find anywhere." 

"Where?" 

"Where? Here or there. Call around, that's the cheapest, cheap 
cheap cheap. So go on." 

"Well sometimes I here the voice of Dan Rather from across the 
street." Now that was odd because Andy Rooney and Mr. Rather work 
together or at least pass each other in the halls at work. Maybe she's 
purposely projecting her delusions onto me. That is possible you know. 
"He reports all that I do. The other day I was eating a banana and I heard 
him telecast, 'and now she's peeling the banana... I've just learned that she's 
putting it in her mouth, boy she has a large mouth. She chews her food 
well ladies and gentlemen. Now she's holding it like a, well I can't say this 
on national television, but you know what I mean. She has a dirty mind. 
And now she's throwing it away because she knows that we know what 
she is up to.' And I did throw it away. That man drives me nuts." 

"Yes, yes, I can see that. First of all, I would suggest not watching 
CBS any more. Try CNN, they've really got it together lately." 

"And sometimes I feel like I'm running around like a chicken with 
my head cut off." 

"Wait a minute! I believe I've read about that somewhere. I know 
I've heard of that. Hmmm...yes. It was 'The System of Dr. Tarr and 
Professor Feather,' a story about a bunch of quacks in an insane asylum 
who took over the place. Yes I have read some literature on this delusion 
of yours." 

"Well, It's not really a delu...." 

"Let me finish, please. Yes, it was an essay by the infamous psychic 
and psychiatrist, not to mention a world-renowned physiologist Poe...yes, 
Poe was his name... and he wrote about lunatics who believed themselves to 
be other things, such as a tea pot and a donkey and one, as a matter of a 
fact, thought himself to be a chicken. The essay was a nineteenth century 
document and should therefore apply to you." 

"Nineteenth century? No, that was over a hundred years ago. 
You've got your centuries mixed up. It is the twentieth century." 

"First of all, I do not get mixed up. Second, it is the nineteenth 
century. I can't imagine where you get your information from, but it's 
wrong." 

"No, I'm not wrong. I'm right." 

"So then, Ms. Genius over there, how is it the twentieth century 
being that it is 1999. Nineteen hundred, nineteenth century." 

"No, the first century A.D. to 99 A.D. was the first, and the year 

19 



100 till 200 was the second. That's how I'm right, thank you very much." 

"That's ludicrous. What did you do with the lowest number? 
What's the lowest number?" 

"One is the lowest number," she said confidently, but watch, I'll 
show her. 

"No, ma'am. Zero is the lowest number and being the lowest 
century, labeling it with the lowest number is only reasonable. You can't 
skip zero and expect to get away with it. Zero is necessary. Can't skip 
zero. If you forget zero the whole rational world will fall and probably 
land directly on your head." There was a blank look in her face and her 
eyes seemed hollow as she pondered upon my words. "Anyway let's get 
back to your chicken shit problems," I said. 

"Not chicken shit, it's a decapitated chicken." 

"I know that, and as I was trying to tell you, the essay had a rather 
unique strategy for handling brain malfunctions like yours. It was said that 
if one were to treat one as he or she believed themselves to be, that a 
person would grow out of the delusion. From what I understood, the 
treatment had a very good result. You see, when one is treated in this way, 
a certain and specific colloidal effect takes place within the synapse of the 
frontal lobe of the cranium and has a exponential positive effect on one's 
state of consciousness, not to mention the District of Columbia's uncon- 
scious controlled substance laws, such as opium has a direct effect on one's 
dreams." 

"Hold on a minute. I have not the slightest clue as to what you just 
said, but it sounds good. So you're telling me that if others treated me like 
a chicken with my head cut off, then I would stop feeling like one." 

"Absolutely," I told her. 

"Well, I'll try anything." 

"Okay then, I'll prescribe you three and one half quarts of chicken 
feed a day. I guess you can find it in your local Feed and Seed." I thought 
for a moment and suddenly I realized, I had made a dreadful mistake, how 
could I have done such a preposterous thing? I only hope that I can re- 
solve this situation before it gets out of hand or before my cover is blown. 
"Ma'am, I hate to tell you of my mistake, seeing as how I make so very 
few. Maybe we can just call it an overlooking." 

"Yes yes go on, what?" 

"Seeing as how you are supposed to be a headless chicken, chicken 
feed is kind of a ridiculous idea, isn't it? I mean, shoving the seed down 
your throat could get monotonous. So, let's see... how about twelve hours 
a day in a chicken coop, yes that should work fine. But no more than 
twelve a day and discontinue treatment when the problem disappears but 
not suddenly. For such strong treatment as this, you must use a "tapering 
down effect." Such as twelve one day then ten for two days then eight for 



20 



two days and so on, and it's very important that you do it in that method. 
I'm sure your husband will build you a coop, I know he and the dog could 
use the privacy." 

"Don't you think that is a little extreme?" 

"NO! Let's move on. I think for your little x-ray/erection episode 
we should definitely take a Freudian approach. And Freud liked to experi- 
ment with cocaine. So I'll write you a prescription for.. ..let's see, one 
gram per every two days. If the pharmacist gives you any trouble tell him 
to call my office, and I'll verify the appointment and prescription. Yes, let's 
do that and I'll give you three weeks worth of Methadone and Lithium." 

"Wow, I didn't know nuts could get so much fun out of a visit," she 
said with a bouncing tone. Maybe like a ball bouncing around inside her 
head. A necessarily empty head. 

"So you should be feeling much better real soon and I hope you can 
get your ahh... inadequacies and inferiorities filled to a more 
ah.... appropriate level. Thank you Ms. Pluto, keep your nose clean and 
everything will be okay." I thought to myself, when she tells the pharma- 
cist about her visit, they'll really think she nuts. 

"Well okay Dr. Siecco, I guess I'll see you in a month?" 

"Yes, call my lovely nurse and make an appointment for any day of 
your choosing, except Saturdays." She gave me 100% of forty-two dollars 
and left my office. Seeing as how her paranoia was beginning to make me 
nervous, I snorted another Methadone. I realized that if I could not come 
up with $56.48 that I would soon be a homeless lunatic and the last thing I 
want is to be put back in that dreadful hospital. But what if — I have 
contrived a plan. If I gave my landlord all the money I had, I could move 
all of my belongings to one side of the room and tell her that I promise to 
use only 42.52% of my apartment, which would mean a drastic cut in space 
but a much smaller area to keep clean. Yes, that should definitely work. 

I left my office through the front door, which was not the way I 
came in. And I was walking home when I suddenly began to feel a little 
guilty, but why should I? Do you think what I just did was all that bad? I 
don't, it's being done all the time, just not usually on Saturdays. 



21 




Persephone 's Kiss 

Elizabeth Pferschy 
silver gelatin print 



22 



School of Fish 

Erin Helmey 



I sat separate and alone, spanning the sea 

of faces who were smiling at violence 

and laughing at death. I wondered 

Did they really know 

what the shattering, spinning, seething 

shots would do to their fresh, delicate bodies? 

but their flashing teeth spelled no; I guess 

horror and loss are humorous. 

salty water welled in my eyes 

as I could see the guilty and innocent blood 

pooling together in this earthy pot 

on cold, lifeless school floors, 

the base of knowledge 

which brings America to its end. 

as my first tear splashed on the sandy floor, 

the bullets rang out, and each of the immature, 

welcoming faces was lost forever in their own 

current of false hopes and dreams. 



23 




24 



a wort to the wise 

Laura Bonney 



Well, the weather was so nice 

That, against all sage advice, 

I packed my gear and headed for the trees. 

Camping out for me is fun, 

Choice of leisure, number one; 

Pitch my tent, go fishing, do just what I please. 

I can't say I wasn't warned, 

But their warnings wise I scorned, 

When the old folks said, "You'd do well to remember 

Indian Summer doesn't last 

And by now it should be past. 

You should never 

Go tent-camping 

In November." 

All went well my first day out, 

Caught my supper, two nice trout; 

Lovely evening with a mild and gentle breeze. 

With the dawn there came a rain 

But I still could not complain, 

Stayed inside and read, still perfectly at ease. 

THEN. . .a gale began to blow 

And that rain, it turned to snow 

And the mercury dropped down into December. 

I packed up to head for home, 

Indian Summer sure had flown; 

I should not have 

Gone tent-camping 

In November. 

Dropped my compass in the snow- 
Didn't know which way to go- 
Stepped into the stream, got wet above my knees; 
Then bronchitis did set in 
With pneumonia as its twin, 
And every cough was followed by a sneeze. 

25 



Forest rangers brought me back 

when their bloodhound found my track, 

(But that's the part I really don't remember.) 

I woke here in ICU; 

This is my own fault, it's true, 

All because I 

Went tent-camping 

In November! 



26 



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27 




Lenny 

Mary anna Axson 
graphite 



28 



Pen-Pal 

Richard DiPirro 



I leaned over the counter and waved my hand to attract 
the bartender's attention. He was a young guy, about the same 
age as me, and he was hustling. I caught his eye as he finished 
blending a pitcher of Margaritas for some girls to my left, and 
after a few minutes I had a nice, cold draft and a fresh shot of 
Cuervo in front of me. I paid and left him a dollar in the empty 
shot glass and made my way to a table in the back of the club. 

I wasn't as drunk as usual, and it was a nice change. I 
hadn't been to this particular den of sin for a long time. It was a 
fast place, with the music pounding, lights whirling around, and 
multitudes of beautiful women moving and dancing with the 
most practiced predators in town. Clothes reflected the highest 
fashion and the attitudes were timeless. Everyone was laughing 
and smiling as they danced, and yet, the atmosphere was any- 
thing but happy. I smiled along as I watched, amused by the 
spectacle. 

I drank my beer and watched the people circulate and 
interact throughout the club. I could barely see the dance floor 
through the throng of dependency around and in front of me. 
People were arriving steadily, and the club was filling quickly. 

A flash of twirling black hair on the dance floor caught 
my eye, and I stretched my neck to see around a couple in front 
of me. I caught the back of a head spin, and long, straight, shiny 
black hair tossed itself up into the air and fell down again with 
the beat. It was a woman, and she moved out of my sight before 
she could turn again and reveal her face to me. 

My eyes were wide and I stood quickly, disturbing the 
table. I grabbed my beer and made my way down through the 
crowd toward the dance floor. The music was loud, and the beat 
thudded throughout my body, entraining with my heartbeat, and 
leading my mind. I pushed my way forward urgently, holding my 
beer high so people would avoid me. My eyes darted ahead, 
searching. 

There. She spun again and her hair bounced into my line 
of vision. I made my way through the last barrier of hounds, and 
there she was. The music pumped a heavy-metal song with a 
deep, grinding bass, and she turned with a flip of her head, and 
there was no question that it was her. 

29 



It was her, and I was nineteen again, and the speakers 
were all blasting the latest dance music. The clubs were smaller, 
and they were filled with smoke and fresh-washed military men. 
And for every young, hard-working, American momma's boy on 
liberty in Subic Bay, in the Philippine Islands, there were ten girls 
with long or short, straight, shiny black hair who wanted to take 
him home, or to a motel with them. I had seen her then as I saw 
her now - dancing; only then she had moved in a bathing suit, on 
a platform. She was one of four on the runway that first night, 
and I was mobbed by the "Buy-Me-Drink" ladies, but she flipped 
her head in turn with the music, and her hair flashed into my 
eyes. 



I watched as she turned and offered her full profile to me 
now, and any lingering doubt I might have had faded away like a 
bad dream. It was her, in a tight, black body-skirt which held her 
body like it was designed for her. Her legs began where the skirt 
stopped short, and they were hard and muscular from her danc- 
ing. Her face was glowing and wet with sweat, and I was glad 
that her eyes were closed. 

My buddies and I had bragged to each other often about 
the women we had as we sailed throughout Southeast Asia in our 
prime, but I had never told them, never told anyone about this 
one. The feelings I had for her, the absolute effect she had on 
me, were something I was not proud of. 



On that night I first saw her, I drank too much, and my 
friends dragged me to another bar, which I left with another 
woman. I was thinking about her, though, and on our next stop 
in Subic I approached her, and offered to buy her a drink. We 
danced close, and as I looked into her dark eyes I was lost in 
them, and my homesickness and anxieties about living up to 
everyone's expectations disappeared in one slow song. She 
drank my drinks and let me pay twenty dollars for her "bar-fine" 
for the evening. 

We left the club early, and I fed her. She didn't speak 
English very well, and I knew only a few sordid expressions in 
her language. This removed the pressure of talking, and we just 



30 



laughed and touched each other instead. She threw around some 
of the regular lies in English, though, and she kept me happy with 
ambiguous comments about my strength and good looks. 

I slept away from the ship that night, with her, in a small 
bed in a small room. We were tired from the drink, the dance 
and the sex, and she slept soundly. I lay awake with my eyes 
open, staring at her soft skin, watching her nose flare as she 
breathed. When it was time, I woke her, and we made arrange- 
ments to spend time together on my next visit, for only a small 
portion of my paycheck. I kissed her deeply before I left, and we 
parted without speaking. 



My glass was dry, but I couldn't leave her there on the 
dance floor, convulsing and gyrating her talented body. I knew 
as I looked around that I was hardly the only one intent on her 
sweat and compulsive body language. Many pairs of eyes were 
upon her, and many other brains were occupied with their re- 
spective decadent fantasies about her; fantasies I had lived. 



I spent my next three visits to P.I. with her. I slept at her 
place, and she cooked for me and cleaned and pressed my uni- 
forms. I bought her groceries and clothes. I bought her. 

We went water-skiing together and had picnics on beauti- 
ful Philippine beaches. I taught her the name of my hometown 
and showed her pictures of my family. She told me stories of her 
father fighting the Japanese, and taught me how to catch snakes. 
She told me that the lizards crawling on her walls spoke to her 
and warned her in their clicking tones when visitors approached. 
I enjoyed her, and I enjoyed being away from the ship and my 
thousands of ill-smelling, loud and ugly brother Marines and 
sailors living there. 

We wrote to each other while I was out at sea. Each 
helicopter would bring a letter from her, written in a Creole of 
her language and mine. She wrote of missing me, and her desire 
to travel to the United States. She wanted to marry an American 
man, she wrote, and work as a nanny, or as a secretary in a big 
office. I smiled and wrote how I longed to smell her hair and lie 
between her smooth legs in the warm Philippine sand. 

On my last visit, we celebrated the anniversary of our 



31 



ship's christening with a huge party at a local resort hotel. She 
and I were there, and we ate roast pig and squid and fresh fruit, 
and lost money betting on the cockfights. We swam together in 
the hotel's huge outdoor pool and dried each other off tenderly. 
That night, she called me another man's name as we made love, 
and I bit her hard, on her calf. She writhed in pain and orgasm, 
and I tasted her blood. I left without a word and dressed in the 
dark street as I walked back to the ship. 



The beat slowed to a steady grinding pulse, and it moved 
her body with muscular discipline. She danced closer to where I 
was sitting now and I saw, outlined against the sharp definition of 
her calf, the slight discoloration of a scar. She spun her head 
toward me and I felt a droplet of her sweat alight upon my arm. 
Her eyes were open now, and they were wide and blank. She 
looked past me, through me, nowhere. She spun again, and 
long, straight, shiny black hair flowed through the air like water. 

I never spoke of her to anyone, and her pictures aren't in 
any of my photo albums. I keep them separate, in an envelope in 
my closet. I burned all of her letters long ago; all except one, 
which I keep with the pictures. The letter is written in her hybrid 
style, and in it she talks of reptiles and food and American mov- 
ies. It feels old now, and the writing is fading away. 

She was gone. The music stopped, the lights came on, 
and everyone stumbled toward the door. I looked at my lap and 
no one spoke to me as they walked past, which was just as well. 
If anyone had asked me why I was crying, I wouldn't have 
known how to answer. 



32 




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37 



Heaven 

Robert Lurie 



Phil's backpack and his trudging legs were all I saw during our 
ascent into heaven. All four of us climbed laboriously, wearing halos of 
swirling horseflies. After hours and hours of ascent, my mind had gone 
numb. My body kept slugging away at the climb with about as much 
efficiency as one could expect from defective machinery. 

Charlie led our group, striking an Indiana Jones pose with his 
rugged physique. Winston followed, desperately trying to keep up. Phil 
kept his own steady pace, singing gleefully as the sweat ran down the back 
of his neck, and I panted, puffed, panted, groaned, dying slowly, falling 
behind. 

I began to feel that Charlie was working me, like a drill sergeant 
would work his new recruits, and I made a silent vow to get in better shape 
before our next excursion. We didn't stop until we reached the peak. The 
air was clear and dry at the top, and the bothersome flies were now no- 
where to be seen. From the ridge we were able to gaze down into the Holy 
valley: a fertile, forested land surrounded on all sides by jagged peaks. I 
collapsed on the grass. 

"Power Bar?" 

I focused my eyes on Phil's face looming over me. He was prod- 
ding me with a sort of granola bar. 

"It has the calorie count of a Thanksgiving meal," he said. 

"Sure. Thanks." 

Winston had broken out a bag of GORP trail mix and was passing it 
around. Charlie paced back and forth restlessly. I think he was afraid that 
he would lose momentum if he rested too long. 

I gnawed at my Power Bar and raised my canteen above my head, 
letting the water flow over my face and off the edge of my chin, spattering 
on my clothes and the ground. Phil sat next to me, rocking quietly back 
and forth. 

"Are we ready yet?" Charlie asked. 

"Christ, Charlie," I said, "yer killin' me!" 

He stared at me. 

"Okay, I'm ready." 

The rest of the hike was relatively easy. It was mainly a descent 
into the valley, sometimes steep, sometimes quite manageable. Charlie 
took the lead again with Phil following close behind, alternately talking, 
singing, and laughing. I followed Phil. Winston took the rear. 

"Randy, where did you meet this guy?" Winston asked, gesturing 

38 



at Phil. 

"We met in Minneapolis, in grade school, but I haven't seen him for 
a few years. He's really changed." 

"What do you mean?" 

"He seems more cheerful now. He used to be... kind of dark, I 
guess. He's also lost a lot of weight." 

"Why did he come out here?" 

"I have no idea." 

"He just showed up on your doorstep?" 

"More or less." 

Winton laughed. "You know, Charlie's taken to calling you the 
Kaaba." 

"What's that?" 

"It's this sort of shrine in the Mohammedan religion, a kind of 
central holy place that people from all over the world travel to visit. 
You're the Kaaba. You came out here to the Northwest and people from 
all over the country have arrived at your door, seeking wisdom and shelter. 
First there was that guy from Athens, Georgia. What was his name?" 

"Jake." 

"Jake, yeah. Then there was that van full of guys from Virginia, 
and now, this guy Phil from Minneapolis." 

"Hmmm. Well, I wish I could trade some of that so-called wisdom 
for some of Charlie's endurance." 

"Don't worry. You're doing fine." 

Phil and Charlie were already disappearing from sight. Winston and 
I stepped up our pace so we could catch up. The path had narrowed to a 
zigzagging causeway, interrupted periodically by rock piles or streams 
flowing through. We stopped again to take a short break at a miniature 
waterfall that descended from an unspecified point above, collecting on our 
little rocky path and spilling our into the depths below. Winston, Phil and I 
stretched out on the rocks. Charlie remained standing. He stared up at the 
peaks. 

Charlie surprised me by taking the rear when we returned to the 
path. Winston led, I followed, and Phil walked with Charlie, talking excit- 
edly about his plans to enroll at the University of Washington in the fall. 

We crossed through several different terrains during our descent 
into the valley. We emerged from what had been a jungle-like sheltered 
path onto an open cliff road that seemed to have been carved by the gods 
from the rock slate of the mountain. The sun beat down on us, through 
our heads, through our hearts, through the soles of our shoes and through 
the very earth. As we got closer to our destination and moved to a lower 
altitude, the humidity returned, and with it, the onslaught of flies. 

"Don't worry," Charlie said from behind me, "these flies will disap- 
pear by nightfall." 

39 



The rocks on the path were gradually replaced by mud, and our 
descent finally came to an end. We crossed over a roaring creek, one by 
one, tip-toeing precariously across a rickety bridge that appeared to be as 
old as the mountains. We finally reached a small, grassy clearing that was 
surrounded by trees. 

"Here," Charlie said, "This is where we sleep." 

I let the frame backpack fall from my shoulders and felt the circula- 
tion return to my arms. 

We hung the backpacks from the trees and made camp. Phil and 
Charlie gathered some wood and built a small fire. We sat around the 
flames and smoked pipes as daylight receded. The light illuminated the 
faces of my three friends, keeping darkness just a few steps outside of our 
circle. I could see the outlines of the jagged peaks above, an even darker 
darkness blotting out the stars. 

Phil, the born storyteller of the group, spun tales of Minneapolis 
mischief and vaguely alluded to family conflicts that had caused him to bolt 
for the Northwest. The two of us indulged in anecdotes about our com- 
mon home and the people we had known. 

"You remember Carlito Sanchez of course," he said, arching his 
back and pushing his chin upward, assuming the pose of a peacock. "Hey 
hey hey," he said in a mock Mexican accent, "Randy Donahower, the 
stallion, the stallion, le's go git girlies Randy. Oh c'mon, cause I'm the 
man I have class!" 

I nearly fell backwards laughing, "Yes! Yes! Carlito Sanchez. I 
remember." 

"Shit," Phil chuckled, "That guy used to have a new Armani suit 
every day. And his family was dirt poor. He'd come to class with his hair 
all slicked back. A real Mexican James Dean. Guess what he's doing 
now?" 

"What?" 

"He's a Goddamned school bus driver!" 

I started laughing again. 

"Can you imagine it?" he continued, "hey, hey little girlie, git on my 
bus. You lookin' real pritty girlie I'll treat you right cause I'm the man!" 

"A fucking bus driver! Carlito Sanchez! Who would have known? 
Who would have known?" 

Winston made his PHFSCHHH sound, which was his way of 
laughing. If he thought something was particularly funny he would let out 
a PHFSCHHH which sounded a bit like air leaking out of a cut car tire. 

"Why do you do that?" Phil asked. 

"Do what?" 

"You do this PHFSCHHH thing. It's like you want to laugh but 
you're afraid to, so you stop it as it's coming out and it just goes 
PHFSCHHH. Why don't you relax and let it out, man?" 

40 



"PHFSCHHH!" 

We talked and laughed for hours. Finally, growing weary, we 
crawled into our tents. Charlie had his own tent, while Winston, Phil and I 
were sentenced to sleep side by side in a small igloo-shaped tent. This 
arrangement put Winston at a disadvantage. He tossed and turned, trying 
vainly to sleep while Phil and I chattered away about Minneapolis. Phil 
recounted an incident when he had almost run over my girlfriend with his 
big brown Suburban. This prompted me to recall the massive keg party 
Phil and his friend had organized, having the nerve to stage it on the 
Minnehaha Creek bike path at 6:00 AM, before heading off to school for 
the day. 

Much laughter ensued. Winston groaned in agony. We didn't stop 
until we had exhausted every minor story. 

I was the first to wake up the next morning. I was greeted with the 
unpleasant sensation of being sandwiched between Winston and Phil. 
Winston's face was pressed up against one side of my head and Phil's was 
affixed to the other. Both were snoring. I elbowed them in the ribs simul- 
taneously and sat up, breathing in the musty tent air. 

"I've slept what, maybe two hours?" Winston moaned, "I thought 
you guys would never stop talking. Now I know your life stories. I had 
dreams about the people in your Goddamn stories, and I've never even 
been to Minneapolis!" 

"Ah go fook yerself, me laddy," Phil said in a mock Irish accent. 
He burst out of the tent in his long underwear. We could see his legs 
bouncing up and down outside the tent flaps. "Fook yerself, fook yerself! 
Ha ha ha!" His voice echoed throughout the valley. Winston labored with 
the effort of sitting up. His compressed forest of curls jutted straight up 
from his head in a solid mass. 

"Randy, your friend is nuts." 

I crawled out of the tent. Phil was wandering around the campsite. 
Charlie sat, fully clothed, boiling water over the fire. "You boys slept in," 
he said. 

I pulled a granola bar out of my pack and sat down next to Charlie. 
Winston emerged from the tent with his pipe. 

We sat around in silence and had a breakfast of oatmeal mash. One 
by one, the flies began to advance. "We need to get to a high elevation 
before the flies really set in," Charlie said. "There's an old abandoned mine 
at one of the peaks. I say we head for that. It's a good five miles up." 

We hastily got our gear together and started hiking, desperately 
trying to increase our elevation as the flies emerged in full force. WE 
trudged forward along a narrow dirt path, crossing the occasional stream 
by hopscotching over the rocks scattered in the water. Eventually, we 
came to a clearing. The jagged peaks were visible on all sides. Phil's high- 

41 



pitched, slightly off-key singing echoed eerily through the valley. I noticed 
Winston was beginning to loosen up. Occasionally, he would yelp along 
with Phil. Winston was known as a fine saxophonist; he had a reputation 
for making his instrument sing with sensitivity and grace. Unfortunately, 
that talent didn't translate well to his vocal capabilities. He and Phil sing- 
ing together sounded like two dying coon dogs. Ah, but what the hell, I 
joined in too. Charlie started walking faster, hoping a more strenuous pace 
would keep us from disrupting nature in such an unholy manner. 

As we progressed higher, patches of snow and ice gradually re- 
placed the streams. I could see now the dark opening of the old mine, a 
sort of cannon-blast hole blown out of the side of the peak. 

I have never been more aware of the workings of my body than at 
that moment. I could feel every breath, every footstep, the creak and strain 
of every muscle, every blink of the eyes. For the first time in my life I 
realized that I had no control over time. It kept moving at that same steady 
pace, beating down on this body and this mind with an uncontrollable 
wrath. As we reached the open portal of the mine, I understood for the 
first time that there is an end. 

We had not thought to bring flashlights, but Charlie had a penlight, 
and so, once again, he led the group. The mine disappeared behind us, 
finally becoming a little ball in the distance. Phil made "OOO OOO OOO" 
owl sounds as our little beam guided us. Charlie shone it into alcoves, 
searching for bats, but there were none. I kept imagining an old ragged 
man, his eyes corroded from living in the mine for years, his body and face 
gaunt from a steady diet of bat flesh. If there was such a man, though, we 
didn't find him. Our descent into darkness was a long stretch of muddy 
nothingness, which finally ended with a solid brick wall. 

"Man, can you believe all the horrible things that must lie beyond 
this wall?" I said, "too bad we can't see them. Let's go back." 

Phil started kicking at the wall. 

"Come on Phil," Winston said, "you're likely to get us buried. 
Let's get out of here." 

The penlight reversed direction and Charlie slid past me. We 
followed him back and out, through our little portal and out into the light. 

We stood at the entrance for a few minutes, getting acclimated to 
the sun. 

"Let's see if we can get any higher on this peak," Charlie said. 
Without waiting for an answer he began climbing. A huge glacier covered 
the width of the peak, but the foundation had melted out from the summer 
heat and had become the numerous streams coming down from the peaks, 
so the inside of the glacier was essentially hollow. I watched as Charlie 
disappeared underneath it. We followed with slight hesitation. I found I 
was able to stand upright in a dripping ice cavern with about five feet to 
spare. The cavern stretched on and sloped upwards for about a hundred 

42 



feet to a hole and sunlight. Charlie had already disappeared through this 
opening. I walked slowly, letting the glacial rain cool my skin. I came out 
onto a small stretch, which had been exposed by the sun. We were literally 
at the top of the mountain. Charlie stared out at the massive expanse. He 
inhaled deeply; it was almost as if he were swallowing up the entire moun- 
tain range. There was an affectation of triumph in his stance. 

Having found a little nook where I could sit comfortably and gaze 
at the valley, I let myself ebb out of my body and become part of the land. 
My eyes, the last remaining physical connection, blinked rapidly, and I was 
gone. 

I flew around the peaks, through the peaks, even, through rock, 
which had been thrust violently into the world in ancient times. I relived 
the origin, the collision of the plates, centuries of shift and change in fast 
forward, the incredible violence of birth and rebirth. I saw myself sitting in 
my nook. I saw myself in California at the age of six, play-kissing with a 
girl from up the street. I saw myself years later, walking with another girl 
across a frozen lake in Minneapolis. I saw myself lying drunk in the grass 
in Gary's backyard in Georgia at dawn. And finally, I saw Phil, a long- 
buried memory, Phil ravaged with pain, holding onto his father's arm and 
sobbing. His father, unshaven, with madness in his eyes, walked down the 
church aisle. Then, with the splatter of a solitary glacial drop on my 
forehead, I was back in the nook. My eyes opened. Charlie lay stretched 
on the ground, slumbering peacefully. Winston sat with his back to the 
rock face, his head tilted backwards, eyes closed, mouth slightly open. Phil 
sat cross-legged staring out at the valley and quietly rocking back and 
forth. The only indication of how long I had slept was the sun hanging low 
on the horizon. 

"Did you sleep?" I asked Phil. 

"No. I don't sleep too often. I might miss something." 

Charlie opened his eyes and sat up. "Man," he said, "it's late." 

Phil walked over to the glacier and scooped up a handful of slush. 
He knelt down next to Winston and gingerly placed the slush in Winston's 
half-open mouth. 

"WHAT THE...!" Winston was on his feet, jumping around and 
spitting out dirty snow water. Phil clapped his hands together and giggled. 

"Let's get back to our site before it gets dark," Charlie said. 

We feasted that night on military rations that Phil had stolen from 
his older brother. I grabbed an object that resembled a Snickers bar in 
shape and size. It was wrapped in silver foil and bore the inscription 
"Turkey Dinner." I unwrapped the fleshy white bar, took a bite, and felt a 
full course turkey meal expand in my stomach. 



43 



"It's staggering what military technology is capable of," I said. 

"You know," Phil said, "when I was a college student up in north- 
ern Minnesota, I had some roommates who were from Wisconsin. So you 
know what I did? I went and bought some Wisconsin cheese and every 
night I would go around and drop little pieces of cheese in front of their 
doors. Guess what? Every morning I'd look, and, would you believe it? 
All the cheese was gone!" 

Winston frowned. "Why are you telling us this?" 

Phil put his face an inch from Winston's and whispered, "I just 
thought you should know." 

Winston gave me a confused look as Phil bounded away yelping 
"I'm gay! I'm gay! I'm very very very gay!" He hugged a tree. 

"Randy," Winston said, cocking his head in Phil's direction, "is 
he...?" 

"Nah, Phil's not gay. I think we could safely say that if he was, 
though, he probably wouldn't have much of a problem with it." 

"Yes, I think we could safely say that." 

Phil gradually came out of his giddiness as we settled down for a 
contemplative smoke around the fire. Charlie led the discussion, which 
was a meditation on the nomadic lifestyle. 

"It could be said, with little doubt, that inertia leads to alcoholism, 
drug addiction, and eventually insanity. A man must continue moving, if 
not physically, then mentally. He must grow. He must expand his ideas, his 
knowledge and his awareness. To fail to do so is death." 

"I think that's why I left Minnesota," Phil said. "I felt that inertia 
coming on. You can really feel it. Your legs and arms tighten up and you 
don't want to do anything. Yeah.. .it was definitely time to leave." 

"We're sort of unusual in that way," I said. "I mean, here we have 
Charlie, who goes to school in Tennessee. I go to school in Georgia. I can 
meet Charlie and have coffee with him in Nashville, and then a month later 
I'm climbing mountains with him in Washington. Now I'm sitting with 
him, and a childhood friend from Minneapolis, and Winston, who lives in 
Seattle. This country is such a small place." 

"Your life is just plain confusing anyway, Randy," Phil said. "Don't 
you have a girlfriend from New Hampshire?" 

"Yeah, but she goes to school in Georgia." 

"That's just way too complicated for me. I want to live in one 
place at a time. You live in, like, three different places at once. I was 
seeing a girl in Minnesota, but I had to let her go when I came out here. 
There was no way I was going to have a long-distance relationship. No 
sir!" 

"One thing I've discovered about women," Charlie said, "is that 
they're not all they're cracked up to be." 

We sat in silence for a few minutes as Charlie stoked the fire with a 

44 



branch. 

"Well, I don't know about that..." I said finally. 

"They're not all they're cracked up to be." 

Silence. 

"Hey, did I tell you guys about the Organtron?" Winston asked 
from across the fire. 

"Organtron?" 

"Yeah, it was this documentary I saw at Apple Cinemas. Appar- 
ently, around the time of WWII, some German scientist came over to the 
United States and built this thing called the Organtron. It was this wooden 
box about the size of a telephone booth that you could sit down in. You 
would sit down, his a red button and suddenly, you would experience the 
most powerful orgasm in the world...." 

"Wait a minute," I said, "How did it work? Did you have to get 
wired up with all kinds of electrical equipment? How could you have an 
orgasm just from hitting a button?" 

"I don't know, but you could, all right? That's how it worked. 
Anyway, the problem was, he was using government money to do this. 
Well, when the government got wind of what he was doing with their 
grant, they shut him down, cancelled the project. He ran off to a small 
town in Wisconsin and built a laboratory, continued his work. He would 
recruit men and women to go through all sorts of sex tests. He'd wire 
them up, monitor their orgasms, watch them have sex, show them porn...." 

"Sounds like the UGA psychology department." 

"Well, the purpose of this was so he could build even better 
Organtrons. At first the people in the town just knew him as the wacky old 
German guy, but one day some of the farmers got wind of what their wives 
were doing at the "clinic," and they headed over to the laboratory with 
shotguns. They were shocked to find a fully armed, bulletproof bunker in 
the middle of the woods. It had been built with the profits from the first 
Organtrons. 

"Turns out the FBI had been tracking this guy for a while. The 
Organtrons had become very vogue with the literary crowd in the '50s. ..I 
think Norman Mailer had one. ..and the scientist was making millions. The 
feds wanted him for several reasons. Not only was he conducting indecent 
experiments with US citizens on American soil, he had also neglected to 
pay his taxes. So they sent a crack team of assassins to the bunker and 
they killed the scientist and his guards in a massive bloodbath. Man, I saw 
the footage of the blown-out bunker, and it was just unreal. I mean, this 
kind of stuff went on way before Waco, you know. 

"Now there's only 200 functioning Organtrons left. The govern- 
ment has destroyed all the blueprints. Occasionally, Organtrons will sur- 
face at private auctions and sell them for millions of dollars. The people 
who were filming the documentary tracked down this middle-aged guy 

45 



who owned one. He looked really normal, just a working class guy, and he 
kept it in his garage. It looked like a small pine outhouse. He said it had 
been broken for about five years. His wife wanted him to get rid of it, but 
he kept it for sentimental value. At one point his kid came running up to 
him and said, 'Daddy, what are you doing?' and the guy said, kind of tense, 
'Go back in the house, Billy, I'm just talking to the film people.'" 

"Winston, you're full of shit," I said. 

"No, no. I swear this is all true." 

"I don't doubt that you saw the movie, but I can't believe that stuff 
happened." 

"Well, suit yourself." 

Charlie stood up. "I'm going to take a bath." 

"A bath? Charlie, what are you talking about?" 

"In the glacial stream." 

"But it's freezing cold." 

"Yes," Charlie pulled a towel out of his bag, "but I don't want to 
smell bad. Besides, it will be refreshing. Do you want to try it?" 

"Well...." 

"I'll do it," Winston said. 

"Swimming!" Phil yelled. 

"Randy?" 

"Yeah, I guess I'll go too." 

We walked down to the stream, which was more like a river littered 
with large rocks and debris from the mountains. Charlie was the first to go 
in. He walked in naked, wavering at first but gaining his balance with each 
step. He walked to the middle, where the water was waist level. Two 
waves formed around his solid torso. He flexed his muscles, sparring with 
the frigidity. He threw his head forward and down into the water for a 
brief second, then, pulling up again and leaning back, he shook the water 
out of his hair in sweeping arcs. He stood there for a moment, motionless, 
making peace with the river, then walked back out and began toweling 
himself, saying, "watch out for that current, it's pretty strong." 

Winston and Phil went through less graceful repetitions of the same 
ritual. I went in last, feeling the chill climb up my ankles. Looking ahead 
and not down, I didn't see the slippery rock until too late. I watched in 
morbid fascination as the ground slipped from under me and the water 
swallowed me up. I felt first the sting of the water as I went under in an 
ice-cold baptism, then the dirt of the streambed. The current carried me, 
slow at first and then with building speed, away from the shouts of my 
friends. I realized that the water was getting deeper and it was becoming 
increasingly difficult to get footing. I felt the rushing, heard the rushing 
firing of cannons rumbling over and over. A tree hung out over the water 
up ahead and I threw my arms up, grasping the branch and feeling my body 
stretch and almost snap. The branch creaked as I pulled. The muscles in 

46 



my arms coiled and threatened to jump out of the skin. The water pulled 
me one way and my arms the other. Unfortunately, I was too exhausted to 
work myself along the branch as I had intended. I gave a long throaty 
howl, which was the most basic form of prayer and proclamation I knew, 
and let go of the branch. 

The water welcomed me back like an anxious mother and I stopped 
struggling. I saw two large rocks approaching, and I let myself float 
towards them. One crunched against my shoulder. It spun me around, and 
I hit the next rock squarely with my back. My crumpled body drifted lazily 
into a small eddy surrounded by more rocks near the shore. I could feel 
the ground under my feet again, but I was too tired to move. I held on to 
one of the rocks and tried to hold on to consciousness. Up above, the 
lifeless sky promised peace. 

"Take me," I said. 

I felt my head starting to sink. 

"Take me." 

I was raised up, suspended. The sky opened for me. One by one 
the levels of existence disappeared: first the water, then the mountains, and 
then the earth. There was no God waiting for me and no angels in white, 
no deceased family members or gardens of paradise, just peace, pure and 
simple: peace of mind and peace of heart. Completeness. All. 

My eyes opened for a half-second to see Phil's face over me. I 
closed my eyes and returned momentarily to Heaven, but with a nagging 
urgency my eyes fluttered in defiance. In between the frames of black I 
saw Phil, and Charlie behind him. Phil cradled me in his arms against his 
chest. "I thought you were gone," he said. 

Phil, Charlie, and Winston carried me back. They got the fire going 
again and laid me down by it. As my sensations returned to me, I found 
that I had not broken any bones. At most I was badly bruised and winded, 
but Phil told me I had almost drowned. 

With the burden of my pack on my back I climbed out of Heaven with my 
friends the next morning. We rode in my Chevy Blazer down the winding 
roads and out of the Cascades. In a small logging town, we stopped at a 
restaurant and had the most delicious earthly meal ever consumed. 

The drive to Whitby Island, where Phil was living with his older 
brother, took two hours. It was raining when we arrived at his house. 

I shook Phil's hand. "It's been years," I said, "I honestly didn't 
think I was going to see you again." 

"It's funny how things work out," he said with a strange smile. 

On the ferry back to Bainbridge Island, our home, I stretched 
myself out on the long, padded seat and looked over at Charlie. 

47 



"Phil's really changed since I saw him last," I said. 

"For the better?" 

"Yeah. Big time. When we were freshmen in high school, Phil's 
sister committed suicide and after that he just went downhill. He started 
drinking a lot, doing drugs, and kind of lost his sense of humor. Now it 
seems like that's all over. He's become the Phil I knew in grade school, but 
wiser, I guess." 

"Yeah, I figured he'd been through something." 

"He's a good guy," Winston said. 

They say loss of innocence happens when someone has sex for the 
first time. That's not how it worked for me. My loss of innocence came 
the day Phil killed himself, not long after our hiking trip. Every morning 
now I wake up to the sound of a shotgun blast ringing in my ears. I often 
have the same dream: I'm flying low over Seattle and I can feel the rain on 
my face. The Seattle Space Needle juts into the sky, and dancing around 
the top, jumping up and down and clicking his heels, is Phil. His teeth are 
locked in something between a grimace and a grin. A layer of clouds has 
settled over the city, and there are just a few small holes where the sun can 
get through. 



48 




49 



Dogmatic Method 

Andrew Sparrow 



My field lays fallow, 

The factory long since abandoned, 

populated only by vagrant ideas. 

No longer hostilities muse, 

nor privy to the virtual life 

I am drifting through a construct 

of my own design. 

My field lays fallow, 

strangled with the righteous idealogy 

of a thousand men, 

and the pantheons they create. 

The god-head struggles for the status quo 

while possibility claws at me, 

leaving gaps in my words. 

My field lays fallow, 

once razed, the ashes lay heaped, 

swirling in the wind, 

plainly visible in the twilight 

against the glare of commerce 

and the perennial bliss of flourescents. 



50 




Feet 

Michelle Woodson 
silver gelatin print 



51 



Lost Love 

Erica Bryant 



The road ahead stretches far and wide 

where am I gonna go 

is there anywhere I can hide 

Three hundred miles away 

I continue to watch my rear view mirror 

looking over my shoulder 

wondering 

is he near 

Has he come to find that we have gone away 
the children and I 

the house we called home is now just an empty shell 
of ghostly laughter flowing through the halls 
painful memories stuck in the walls. 

This wasn't how marriage was supposed to be 
it wasn't supposed to end like this 
everyday was to be happy 
that's how it's portrayed on tv 
fights, abuse, police and heartache 
there is only so much my soul could take 

I have to think about my life and the lives I brought into this world 

my future and theirs 

they don't understand why mommy's always crying 

but they don't need to know that inside mommy's slowly dying 

So I gathered my bags and hit the road 
with no idea in the world of where I will go 
but I will keep on driving until my heart tells me 
"This is where you belong" 



52 




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53 



beast of burden 

Erin Helmey 



yesterday's lunch trickled 
on the Cosmo as I swore 
my dream would come true, 
but I was happy to see 
cindy's face covered 
by yesterday's lunch. 

the mindless clipping secured to my mirror 

was a catalog girl 

with blonde hair and washboard abs 

to remind me of who I was and how 

i wanted to be 

the mindless clipping. 

mother slapped my bulge, 

saying suck it up, 

so I did. 

all confidence, esteem, and worth 

were vacuumed, held in a bag 

that mother slapped. 



54 



f 









m 



My Thinking Place 

Natalie von Loewenfeldt 
charcoal 



55 



Births of Dreams 

Heidi Hogue 



The photographer told me to relax, breath deep, have fun, pretend 
I had just celebrated the greatest day in my life. That s what I did, and the 
picture was perfect. My laugh seemed to echo on the page all the hopes 
and dreams I had for myself. And they did in that moment of time with my 
feet immersed in my favorite stream on the campus, and continued on 
down that stream forever. 

Looking at my picture on the front of the newspaper, I realized that 
I could have everything I ever wanted, I just had to visualize it, and then 
make it happen, just like I did for the photographer. It was hard for me at 
first, to let loose in front of a stranger. I have actually always been soft- 
spoken. I wouldn 't say shy, rather modest I suppose, I, Rebecca Hogue, 
had been chosen as USIU's Thursday girl. The university I attended was 
United States International University at Ashdown in England, about 
twenty miles from London. It was one of the best experiences of my life, 
and it had opened new doors for me to explore; and the thought of my 
picture for everyone to see unnerved me a bit. Yet, I was flattered. 

This experience of my mother's, the woman whom the picture was 
taken for East Grisden's newspaper, has become one of my own as if I, in 
fact, had experienced it myself. I have the black and white picture beside 
my bed, and every night and morning I look at with such concentration I 
feel as though I have merged with it, actually become a part of it in a way. 

I know my mother through and through, probably better than I 
know myself at times. My mother was a very intelligent, gentle person, but 
at the same time down-to-earth with a twist of quirkiness. She didn't try to 
talk above you about things that tend to bore. Instead, she came down to 
your level, took the time to really listen, and communicated accordingly. 
Her favorite movies were Babe, the movie about the runt pig who discov- 
ers his purpose in life, and Toy Story, the movie about a little boy's favorite 
toys, Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Every morning she ate Cocoa Puffs for 
breakfast, and everyday for lunch she ate a bean tostada from El Potro (just 
an okay Mexican restaurant, but pretty good for Savannah in her eyes). If 
she wasn't at work, then she was at the movie theaters with my step-dad. 
She had seen them all. In fact, I called her and my step-dad, Rebecca and 
Ernest, best movie critics of the Southeast. 

No one could ever guess what she did for a living based on first 
impressions. Becca, as her close friends called her, was a lighthearted 
modest woman, but also a carefree child who took pleasure in all of life's 

56 



simple things. One of these life pleasures is what she did for six years of 
her life, before she passed away. My mother, Becca, was also Dr. Rebecca 
Hogue, OBGYN. She delivered over six hundred babies while living in 
Savannah, helping to bring the miracle of life to hundreds of families. 

This dream of hers, to become a doctor, to help people, to make a 
difference in others lives, did not come to her right out of college. She first 
worked as a computer analyst at Custom Computers in Visalia, California, 
where she met my father. They married soon after, when she was only 
twenty-two years old. My father, Frank Hogue, was also a computer 
analyst, as well as the manager at Custom Computers. He was eleven 
years older than my mother, and had a previous marriage in which he had 
five children. But my mother was not afraid of this fact, so she married 
him and took the five children in as if they were all her own. 

Life was happy and simple. Frank and Rebecca settled into a 
ranch-style house on a small hill overlooking lots of land with a picturesque 
view of California's mountains. They had two children of their own, my 
brother Mark and me, and a cat and a dog. It couldn't get much better. 

However, Becca wanted more from life. Working on a machine 
was not her true calling in life, and she knew it with her whole heart. So, 
she investigated her possibilities and decided to go back to school for two 
years to get the prerequisites for medicine. Another door had been 
opened — She was accepted to Thomas Jefferson Medical College in 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

So our family of four, and the cat and dog, packed all of our be- 
longings and moved to the other coast. We settled in a nice suburban town 
in Marlton, New Jersey, where my mother could commute by train to 
school. My teenage years were hard, like everyone else's. I was rather 
clumsy and introverted. I didn't have many friends, since I was the "new 
girl on the block." So, I stayed at home mostly with my brother and dad, 
since mom was busy hitting the books. Everything seemed to be fine until 
one day when we received a phone call that changed our lives forever. We 
had now hit a whirlpool in the easy stream. Daddy had cancer and a tumor 
in his brain. 

Times got really hard then. Mom had to give dad his shots and take 
him to his chemotherapy treatments, while at the same time trying to 
maintain her grades. Grandmother came to take care of us, keeping the 
family together, and getting us kids off to school. Three long years passed, 
and my father finally died. It was a relief in a way. Suffering is one of the 
worst things a human being can witness. Rebecca Hogue was at a stand 
still in the stream of her life. 

/ didn 't know what to do. I had two young kids who needed my 
help. I only had one year of school left, but it would be the hardest yet. I 
was letting the water take me under, and at this point, who cared? What 

57 



was it all going to mean anyway? Why had I wanted to do this in the first 
place? I almost gave up, I almost let myself drown in the misery of losing 
my love, the one who had supported my every decision. That 's when I took 
that picture of myself out of its hideaway and took a good look at it. 
Tears rolled down my cheeks and stained the black and white page that 
was filled with my laughter. I thought back to when my life had been so 
easy, and I had everything I wanted. Then I got mad, angry with myself 
for almost forgetting everything I had always known from that day the 
picture was taken. I remembered my kids, Frank, my hopes and dreams, 
and on I trudged. 

My mother made it through the most difficult years of her life, and 
received her degree as a doctor. After two years of residency she had 
completed the eight years that it took to pursue her dream. Never once did 
she complain out loud about how hard it was, or how life has been so 
unfair. She kept her head high, she still kept laughing, and she never once 
gave up. My mother, Becca, became the new meaning for determination 
and perseverance in my eyes. 

And how ironic, as I find myself standing here in the same stream of 
my life at twenty-three years old with all the doors open before me and one 
year of college remaining. My mother was killed in a car accident, but the 
water hasn't stopped flowing around me, hasn't taken me under. I have 
taken all that she has taught me, and I have continued to strive towards my 
dreams, with determination, persistence, and most of all the joy of living. 

At twenty-three you brought me here, 

At twenty-two I lost you... 

Who would have thought? 

Who would have knew? 

At one a.m. I stare at your picture, 

black and white. 

You were twenty, 

young and free, 

clutching your hat, 

laughing in the breeze, 

feeling the water trickle between your toes. 

It is here that you stand 

frozen 

in a moment of time, 

until you give birth to me once again. 



58 




Reunited 

Heidi Hogue 
silver gelatin print 



59 



MIME 

Sasha McBrayer 



Have you ever felt 

Like there was someone else 

Within you 

Somebody no one else could see 

This powerful person 

On the inside of me 

Screaming 

Like nobody's business 

To get out 

To show 'em all 

To knock down 

All the walls 

Like an anime character 

So pretty, 

Curvaceous, 

And strong 

With powers 

Way beyond 

Anyone else's 

Imagination 

There inside you 

A part of you 

But no one else can see 

No one can see 

That the person inside of me 

Just might be 

The real me 

But I chose to keep her 

Locked inside me 

Cuz even if 

She came busting out 

Like an alien in my stomach 

They'd never believe 

No one would ever 

Believe 

That she 

Was me 



60 



Obedience 

Andrew Sparrow 



Trained I am. 

Trained to sit up or roll over, 

even trained to beg 

from the wealthy, like some twisted Oliver. 

I am trained to adore the exhilaration of blood and sinew, 

and to be absolved by an idea 

while my mind's eye compares its stimulus 

to the hourglass embedded there. 

I am trained to accept a world where citizens serve 

and nations enslave. 

Trained to lay trust only in myself, 

though a celebrity might make a fine substitution. 

In a sea of suits, uniformed and branded, 
I float listless, drifting, 

looking for the shores of an undiscovered land 
where dogs may roam free. 



61 




62 



Subtlety 

Jason Richardson 



We live in a saturated society of 
Fondling fingers and 
Vociferating voices 
That numb and quell us 
Into somnambulant shoppers. 

We have been impregnated by their 

Ranting, radio-voices. 

Infused with their haranguing headlines. 

Penetrated by their thundering TVs. 

We have become nothing. 

We are passive, grinning, head-nodders 

With information bruised bodies. 

What became of subtlety? 
Will we ever again 
Make our own decisions? 
Will we ever again want to? 

Our inner voices have been 
Silenced by the maniacal media 
of modern minutes. 



63 




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64 



Can A Moment Choose Depression? 

Sharon K. Smith 



Where in the world did you go? 

And what do you have to show 

for your time away? 

Why wouldn't you stay, 

Sane? 

What was there? Who was there 

to share — 

the blessings that come 

when you are being you, 

a moment? 

What happens in a moment? 

It's always on time. 
It comes (clap), it goes. 

Now, if you were that moment, 

would you still be here? 

No, my dear. 

Can a moment choose depression? 

What if it never comes around? 

Could you choose to frown? 

feel sad? 

sink? 

lose? 

destroy? 

Give up, 

Your Life? 

Are you a moment? 

Yes, my dear, 

I Believe — 

You Are. 



(never choose depression) 
65 




s: & c 

.ft n 



66 



The Art of Breaking-ln New furniture 

Rob Zanin 



See, there was a difference between how things were run at my 
house and at Bryan's house, cause ever since I could remember, he ran the 
show. It was our eighth grade year, the last year in middle school, so we 
felt big, smart, and tough, but had enough common sense to realize that we 
still didn't know barely nothin about what really mattered in life. You 
know, getting a real job, a degree in business or medicine from mom and 
dad's favorite college, and eventually findin that "special someone" that 
you hear about in those anti-premarital sex commercials on TV. Either we 
didn't know nothin about all that stuff, or we were just having too much 
fun to care. I mean hell, both of us were looking forward to our ninth grade 
year, where we'd actually have real women in school instead of just girls. 
That's what his older brother told us anyhow and he was older than us, so 
why wouldn't it be true. 

It was a Thursday afternoon in the middle of March and the snow 
on the grass was just beginning to melt. It was at least a good fifty degrees 
outside without any wind. Sorta pleasant for a change in the snowy 
weather, ya know? Me and Bryan had just stepped off the school bus and 
threw all our school stuff over on the side of the house, picked up a foot- 
ball and started to toss it around in what we call his "front yard." For the 
first time in three months, you could actually see some traces of a lighter 
shade of gray in the New York sky. Jeez, today it almost looked blue! All 
the snow on the roads was either cleared off or had melted at least two 
weeks ago, but I guess the plow man had a starving family of twelve to 
feed or somethin. He'd go up and down the suburb streets salt-salt-saltin 
away even when there wasn't any ice left. Some of the kids in music class 
said that if you rode your bike close enough to his plow truck, you could 
actually hear him bitch at ya from way up there in the cab. I can't say I ever 
found out for sure, cause I was too afraid of him runnin me over, ya know? 

"I'll tell ya what kid," Bryan said with that thick Brooklyn accent 
that chicks from all over the world seem to love, "My Mudda ain't gonna 
be back at da house for anotha owa. Whaddya say me and yous get up on 
da roof and have us a smoke, huh?" 

Neither of us would smoke by ourselves, cause that would make us 
addicted. Smoking with a friend just made you cool. So I agreed, just as 
anyone would have because Bry (only Bry to the kids he grew up with, ya 
know, "carriage to coffin" like he used to say) was cool. Now, I'm not just 



67 



sayin it cause I was his friend, or cause I lived 

down the street. Bryan, was cool. If you looked cool up in the dictionary, 
you'd get a definition which would be somethin like "One who looks good 
in front of his peers, ya know?"; and then somethin like a picture of him 
leanin up against a lamp post, arms crossed, little smartass smile on his face 
at about two in the morning cause our curfew was eleven and it was cool 
to be out past curfew. Almost like somethin you see in those teeny trendy 
movies. Yeah, Bry was cool. We both wanted to go smoke a cigarette in 
order to feel a little older, but instead we tossed the ball back and forth 
seein who could peg the other one with the best spiral. The ball started to 
sting our hands in the cold weather, but neither of us wanted to be a sissy 
and put the ball down first. 

"Aay, did I tell ya dat my Fadda went out da otha day and bought a 
tonna new fuyniture for da family room?" Bry asked. 

"Naw. So I guess you got a few nice couches now huh." I replied, a 
little more than disappointed that my mom and dad hadn't went out and 
remodeled our family room. But what the hell were they supposed to do? 
Bry's dad ran some hot shot insurance company, and from what I could tell 
ran more than half the city. And well, my parents taught. You know, 
school. Mom and dad always told me that "teaching has it's own rewards," 
but never once had I seen em with a happy look on their face when the 
check came in. But as far as I could tell they were happy; and so was I and 
that was good enough for me. 

Finally, Bry pegged me just a bit too hard in the right cheek with 
the football, and could tell that that just put an end to our game by the 
black and blue mark that began to appear under my right eye. I still knew 
that I wouldn't get off that easy with just a bruise. After all, I let the ball 
slip straight through my hands. 

"Good hands, sissy." Bry teased, "Aay, it's da new startin wide 
receiva' for da Jets! Look out yous guys it's numba seventeen, wide 
receiva' Buttafingas!" 

"S'not funny Bry. How'd you like a black eye too, huh?" I said as I 
threw a half speed right hook at him. He easily caught my hand, and inter- 
rupted my intentions of giving him what's what. 

"Come on, kiddo, let's yous and me go inside and get some pop;" 
and after careful thought, he winked at me, smiled and added "Cuz ya 
know that I'd hafta hurcha otherwise, ya know?" I laughed sorta half assed 
along with him cause I think that we both knew how the fight would have 
turned out any ways. We went in the garage door, past the basement, and 
through the family room, into the kitchen. I'll tell you what though, don't 
think for two seconds my eyes ever left that big new expensive fluffy type 
couch in the family room. It was like lookin at some type of Pharaoh's 
throne. Just like the ones ya see in the books in history class, ya know? It 
had to be big enough to fit a good fifteen or twenty people, with at least 

68 



twenty-five thousand pounds of fake cotton stuffing in there too. Hell, the 
couch even smelled expensive. Well, I guess he saw me staring at it or 
somethin cuz after he threw me the can of pop, he said, 

"So what's da story hea buddy? Ya gonna go check it out o' what?" 
And believe me, did I ever. At first I ran my hand slowly over the ocean 
blue stitching, and then slowly down the fluffy sides and eventually got to 
the mahogany back. Yeah, it was nice all right. We both spent a good five 
minutes sittin on it in complete silence, enjoying the way the couch sorta 
came to life and sucked your body into it until you and your soul became 
part of the upholstery. I told myself then and there that I was gonna be rich 
someday and have a couch just like that one; only it was gonna be filled 
with twenty-five thousand dollars instead of twenty thousand pounds of 
fake cotton stuffing. I wasn't prepared, ready for, anticipating, or expecting 
the next comment that he threw at me. It was out of the blue, and hit 
harder than the football that he hit me with in the front yard. It was almost 
like a message from heaven, a symbol of divine intervention proving that 
anything is possible, a statement of complete and utter defiance to author- 
ity, that it almost made me cover my ears. . .but not quite: 

"So what's the deal here, kiddo?" Bry asked, "Are we gonna jump 
off da loft onta dis ting or what?" I slowly raised my eyes toward the 
upstairs and began doing the math. See, at this time, Bry was the only kid 
in the entire neighborhood whose old man had enough dough to have an 
upstairs with an open type walkway right above the family room, so you 
could see the people up there and vice versa, ya know? I figured that if we 
slid the couch about five feet toward the wall, with a good jump, we'd be 
set. So, we slid it up against the wall, and hurried up the stairs to get a 
good look at the situation. We both sat on the banister with our feet 
hanging down, lookin at what was probably a fifteen foot, but it had to be 
at least two miles from where I was. The smile on my face was gone. The 
feelings of defiance and triumph over mom and dad weren't there anymore, 
just a terrible realization that I was afraid of heights. For the first time in 
my life, I had obtained some knowledge of the fact that I wasn't invincible 
and two feet to the left, or two feet to the right, really made a difference. 
But see, the whole problem was that I was too cool to get down and do 
what I knew was safe. Don't think for a minute that I wasn't gonna let him 
jump though, cause no matter if it was a hit or miss, it was a good laugh 
for me. Maybe two feet to the right or left would serve him right for peggin 
me with the football. . .but I didn't tell Bry that. 

"So what's da story, sissy? Do I gotsta do everyting foist?" Bry 
said, and with a little smile, he pushed off and landed on the couch with a 
soft "Thumpt!" Now, I knew that there was no way I was getting out of it 
without jumping off. After all, he first and called me a sissy. I had to go. 
Why? I don't know for sure, but I knew that it would make me cool if I 
did. So, I closed my eyes and pushed. As I fell through the air, I'm still not 

69 



sure how long I was between the upstairs and downstairs, but it felt like 
time had ceased to exist. Then, I realized that my jump had not made the 
same noise as Bry's. Mine sorta sounded similar to splintering, maybe 
crackling, but definitely broken wood, and nothin like the "thumpt" created 
by twenty thousand pounds of fake cotton stuffing. 

"Holy shit! Ya broke the friggin couch!" Bry yelled with his accent 
thicker than I ever remember it. For the first time in my life, I could tell 
that he wasn't in control. I opened my eyes, stood up and walked across 
the room to the opposite wall. I turned around slowly, almost expecting to 
see a firing squad taking aim at my head, and might have rather seen five 
men with guns instead of that expensive couch lying pitifully in a V shape. 
The underside beam was certainly broken, and that expensive couch was 
certainly heading for the city dump. And I could tell we were both certainly 
headed straight for our rooms the rest of the winter as soon as mom and 
dad found out. I looked at Bry for some sign of hope, some clever, devious 
plan in order to make things better, but all I gots back was a blank stare 
that said "I'm screwed." Well, at least that's how I took it. So, quickly and 
silently, I grabbed my backpack and put my shoes on and started to walk 
home. 

By now it was gettin dark and the semi-blue sky was now covered 
up by clouds any ways. The only noise on the street was that salt crazy nut 
in the plow goin up and down the road, putting salt on more salt that was 
there since last week. I had definitely gotten colder outside too, probably 
about forty degrees now, and Jeez it was only six-thirty and the sun had 
already gone down. I realized at that moment that this was the start of the 
rest of my life. It was as though the couch seemed to collapse under the 
weight of my childhood ignorance and for the first time I realized that 
danger was a real thing, and that some actions did have consequences. I 
put down my backpack, turned and looked back at Bryan's house. I could 
have almost cracked a smile at the thought of that couch breaking if his dad 
didn't pull up in the driveway at the same time. 

"Kid, I hope ya got a damn good excuse this time," I said under my 
breath to no one in particular. I turned again, and pulled the pack of ciga- 
rettes from my jacked pocket, "three-fifty of my allowance for this?" I 
thought as I lit one by myself for the first time. I glanced one more time 
back at Bry's, picked up my backpack, and headed home to see what was 
for dinner. 



70 




71 




Untitled 

Robert McCorkle 
acrylic on canvas 



72 




Theory of Flight 

Jennifer Cohen 
acrylic on canvas 



73 




Under the Pier 

Kathy Hutcherson 

silver gelatin print, sepia tone 



74 



Inevitable 

Adrian Godbee 



The sun rises in your eyes. . . 

all things living come from your touch. 

Awakening; 

learning; 

caring; 

loving; 

all senses and emotions arise at your command. 

In the palm of your hand 

sets my soul in a cage, 

waiting for me to find the key 

(to your heart). 

I pray that the sun never sets in azure eyes or 

skies, 

and that our love rules this world of light. 

For if the sun sets 

(in your eyes) 

And the moon rises 

(in its full illuminating glory), 

I will cover my heart with that blanket 

that lies at the dark edge of the world, 

and wait for the sun to rise 

again. 



75 




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77 



Dear Mr. Whitman: 

Adrian Godbee 



I, too, hear America singing - 

But now her song isn't quite as sweet. 

Bloody cries come from the streets 

Where Red was shed. 
Unborn babes lie in unmarked graves, 

With their future eliminated. 
Firewords spread around the sphere - 
My Brothers and Sisters take one last 

Breath of living air. 
The elderly lay forgotten, 
While democracy hangs a flashing, neon 

"Closed" sign, 
Waiting on St. Paul's gates to open. 

Listen! 

Slowly, 

America's singing will 

Die... 

With her past, 

her present, 

her future, 

if we only stand to listen... 

to her last... lingering... notes 



78 




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79 



sanctuary 

Gregory Vaughn 



When detached reflecting on my beloved 

I oftentimes become frightened 

that I am not loved the same, 

but the memory of her gentleness 

is enough to pacify my yearning soul. 

I study the moment my eyes discovered hers 

stealing glances playfully, 

but with serious intent. 

But yesterday has passed to what seems an endless time ago. 

her frame, her eyes, her smell... 

All encompass my grasp with the closure of my eyes, 

a treasured memory that no one can steal. 

She is my sun on a cool summer morning: 

The light of her tenderness descending on my face, 

warming me all over. 

So distant, yet near in my heart 

borrowed words echo in my mind, 

whispering the song of love. 

Words beautiful, and yet menacing 

like a scalpel cutting deep, prone to her mercy 

my devotion has no limits. 

Will she come to me and ease my mind? 

Desperate moments clench my soul in times of doubt. 

And I grieve in silence, 

as my fondness for her multiplies. 

She is my essence 

therefore I have no alternative except to love her. 

My world has been infiltrated by the presence of a woman 

in every sense of the word. 

So sensuous and magnificent, 

that I am overwhelmed. 



80 




Union 

Mike Rios 
charcoal 



81 



Mirrored Results 

Erin Helmey 



Beth's hand quivered as she handed the petite girl her paper. It was 
probably stress, she thought, but she had taken that diet pill this morning. 
They always made her stomach a little queezy, but then she could at least 
feel it working, like her round belly was shrinking already from one little 
pill. She didn't mind though because the nausea kept her from eating. 

That morning, she taped a picture of this girl from a catalog on her 
mirror. She was beautiful yet casual in these little pink sweatshorts that 
dipped below her waist with this sweatshirt that was cropped, so Beth 
could see her flat tummy with that perfect little naval. Beth thought that if 
she saw her every time she looked in the mirror, it would remind her to 
stay focused on her goal. 

She was hurrying to get out of work, so she would make her 
doctor's appointment that day. The dreaded physical always plagued her 
with sweaty palms; it just wasn't a comfortable situation for any party 
involved. 

She pulled up to the office and stepped out of the car; her belly 
rubbed across the steering wheel as she exited. She approached the auto- 
matic doors and thought how much she hated those things; they seemed to 
magnify her laziness and bring it to her attention as if she couldn't push or 
pull a door. She signed her name under the list of previously highlighted 
names; her hand was still wavering, magnified by the pen with the metal 
chain attached, clanking on the cold, steel clip of the clipboard. She knew 
she would be next, so it wouldn't be long now. Beth sat in the cushy chair 
that hugged her already well-padded thighs and watched the fish in the 
huge tank. Each one kept about its business, not paying the least attention 
to the other. There was a big one that just hovered over the rest; carefree at 
the top of the water, he seemed to possess this air of superiority. He was 
grey, not blue or yellow like the others, just grey and huge in comparison. 
The fins on his side seemed so tiny against his bulging midsection. "Jones." 
That was her and what she called her obscure, indistinct, Doe-like name. 

The young nurse guided Beth to the first step: the dreaded scale. 
The harsh, metal contraption seemed to constantly point up before the 
nurse finally settled on a weight of 235 while the number reverberated 
through Beth's consciousness. Another reminder of her failure as an American 
woman served as a push toward her dream. 

It was finally over, she thought to herself while backing out of her 
parking space. Beth hadn't eaten since the night before, thanks to the 
trusty, yellow pill, so she decided to grab something quick. Pulling up at 

82 



the drive-thru, Beth told herself to order the salad but out slipped the 
number five whose fat content was already accumulating on her lower 
stomach. Once again, after devouring fries and all, the guilt of another 
meal hung heavy on every appendage that was larger than the catalog 
girl's. 

After arriving at home, Beth loaded her arms with mail and entered 
the frigid, dark house. She dropped the mail on the kitchen table immedi- 
ately and headed toward the bathroom. The walls were papered with a 
delicate blue and pink, flowery pattern, contrasting Beth's view of herself 
in the mirror. She stared at herself while letting past comments flow 
through her mind. She could still hear that guy saying, "You have such a 
beautiful face if only. ..." 

If only, she thought — if only what? She preached to herself that it 
was what people didn't say that mattered, and what he didn't say was that 
her body was ugly. Her mousy brown hair curled around her creamy 
cheeks, dropping below her developing double chin. Her hazel eyes, barely 
open, scanned the contents of the mirror, seeing only dimples covering her 
touching thighs and stretch marks extending from her naval southward and 
surrounding her breasts like fingers stealing her femininity. Her vibrating 
hand slowly lifted the toothbrush and prodded her throat as she hovered 
over the toilet. Her stomach turned every time contact was made with the 
torn tissues of her throat. It was only a matter of time, and the number five 
would join the rest of the house's waste, taking with it Beth's pride and 
esteem. With every nudge of the brush, her stomach turned over atop 
itself; her mouth began to water in anticipation for the partially digested 
meal. Then, up it came, defying all laws of gravity and biology, for Beth 
had taken the law into her own hands, determined to become one of the 
many, who needn't struggle for acceptance and prosperity in the world of 
gender relations. 

She stared at herself in the mirror, as she always did after that 
moment when she felt she had some inkling of success, leaving the rem- 
nants of the number five scattered about on the crisply white bowl, seat, 
and creamy, cold ceramic tile. Her cheeks were flushed with a rosy color 
from the blood that rushed to her head; tears had welled in her eyes, slowly 
drifting down her strained face, and she saw that once again she had rup- 
tured a blood vessel in her eye from straining to remove from her body that 
destroyer of quality life. The blood-red appearance in her left eye grew 
until it had taken over almost the entire inner corner. "Like a demon," she 
muttered, entranced by her own reflection, disgusted just the same. Her 
focus became lost in the rapture of the churning blood, for she saw nothing 
but red, blood red. The welding of her conscious meditations and her 
inextricable subconscious boiled and assaulted her visual reality. The blood 
dripped from her eye and overflowed down her full cheeks, now a darker 
red from blood that flowed outside of her body. It ran down her chins and 

83 



across her neck, forming separate streams that seemed to be sharp, glacial 
fingers grasping at her throat, raw from the regurgitation and scratching 
fingers. As her lethargic focus shifted to the covetous fingers, Beth be- 
came dizzy from the fear arising in her gut at the face of a demon culti- 
vated. Her fall was slow as if drifting on the pillowy air, but the softness 
came to an abrupt end as her as regret-filled head received a blow from the 
ceramic bowl. Encircled in the remnants of lunch and blood, Beth re- 
mained, a victim of her own illusory ideas of superiority and perfection. 



84 



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85 



An Answer to Death 

Heidi Hogue 



Thoughts scuttling with the wind 

in whirlwinds of feelingless confusions. 

Where are you... 

Where am I? 

Is this real? 

Or a facade of the mind, 

Like the water in a desert, 

Thirsty and setting out to quench, 

yet coming to taste the dry, gritty sand that gets caught in the corners of 

your eyes. 

You're still not here. 

I'm still here, 

Fighting off crazy and lonely tears, 

Staring into the looking glass 

only to see hazy notions of what might be a reunion. 

Tornadoes of emotions — 

Love, Anger, Sadness, Despair — 

rip throughout my numb body (which really means nothing anyway). 

Take the mirror, spin it around, and stare deep into the depths beyond the 

gates, 

in the pupil, that certain Twinkle in the eye. . . 

It's very clear, you shall not miss it. . . 

The Soul. 

Dive deep and dare to explore, 

and you will find the effervescent pearl shining within its shell. 

Souls never leave. 

They are interconnected, like enigmatic puzzle pieces fixed in circles of 

eternity. 
Finally I am put to rest. 



86 




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87 



Searching 

Adrian Godbee 



I close my eyes 

soft breezes blow 

picks up my hair 
I search for your caress 

I yearn for your soul to touch mine 
A scent from my memory 

I turn, but you aren't there 
I feel your touch 

it leaves me shivering, 

quivering slightly, 
Like the cool night air that 

caresses me 

as we count stars in the sky 
I'm staring at a horizon 

searching for your silhouette 

against a sunrise 
by a lakeside 
I return to the cabin 

leaving the night air as it 

kisses me goodbye 
I open my eyes 

and find you at last 
lying beside me 




Untitled 

Elizabeth Pferschy 
silver gelatin print 



89 




Untitled 

Sandra Gupta 
silver gelatin print 



90 



Quiet River 

Richard DiPirro 



The air was still the day he crossed the flowing border of 
the town. The air was still and the sun leaned on this side of the 
river as his hiking boots rang the dull timbers of the bridge. The 
gnats and mosquitoes held their convention along the length of 
the river and shore, and they swarmed a halo around the stranger, 
but, I declare, not a one touched down on his dusty ballcap, nor 
lay tiny feet upon the sweat of the man's face. He came with 
company that day; a dog the color of dried clay trotted at his 
side, looking neither right nor left, and moving as a dog would 
move had it walked a hundred miles in a handful of days. 

At the end of the bridge, man and dog hopped down to 
the river's bank, forsaking the road's itinerary for one of their 
own. The man walked to the water's edge and squatted so that 
he leaned out over the soft-running surface. He stayed that way 
for a while, occasionally stretching out one arm and gracefully 
dipping his hand in the cool water. The dog drank its fill and lay 
down in the shade of an old elm. The dog neither panted nor 
drooled much, as one might expect a dog to do on a day as warm 
and as humid as this was. It appeared either too exhausted to 
behave as a normal dog, or it was impervious to the heat and the 
multitude of insect communities, which loved this land like no 
other. After a while the man stood and began walking down- 
stream, toward me. He gave a soft whistle and the dog appeared 
instantly at his side. 

The man hiked along the river path with long strides and 
he approached me rapidly. He wore tired jeans and an olive- 
green, military-style rucksack. His T-shirt was faded and soiled 
and his cap was rife with road-dust and sweat stains. I sat upon 
my favorite fallen live-oak, with my pole out above the shining 
river and the blue-tinted line running as slack as ever into an arbitrary 
point in the water's surface. 

I shifted myself slightly as I sat so I might view the 
stranger's face as he drew near. I nodded my head and raised my 
hand in greeting. "Nice dog," I said to him. He slowed his pace 
and nodded in return. He stopped and looked at me once. His 
hair and his face were darker than his arms, and the shade, which 
fell on the man's face from his ballcap, mixed with the road-tan, 



91 



dirt and beard stubble so as to erase any prominent features from 
view. His eyes, however, flashed into view as he first looked me 
over. They were a deep, forest green; a green which grows 
where rain falls more often than not. 

He looked down at the dog, as though he had never seen 
it before. "You think so?" 
His gaze moved on to where my line lay dead in the water. 

"Sure! She's a Lab, isn't she?" The dog was sitting 
patiently by the man's side looking straight ahead, down the path. 
As I watched, she turned and looked at me, the sun falling full on 
her face and bringing out a beautiful metallic rust color. Her face 
was rather small, but her eyes were huge — a big, strong brown. 
She looked at me unblinking for as long as I looked at her. The 
gnats swarmed all over me, as they always did, regardless of the 
amount of bug-spray I used, but the dog didn't flinch. She didn't 
scratch or pant, she just looked at me. 

At last, the young man hitched his pack up a bit, touched 
his cap in my direction and began to move on down the path 
again. "Good luck," he said as he walked away. I heard him 
give the same soft whistle as earlier, and the dog trotted off to be 
at his side. 

"Good luck to you, Sir," I called after him, and turned 
back to my slumbering line. 

I sat on my log for a while longer, until I had to admit to 
myself that the fish were not at home today. I strolled home 
leisurely, enjoying the bright sun on my face. I put away my rod 
and tackle, and packed today's earthworm survivors back in their 
corner of my ice-box. I was starving and, as I had no fish to eat 
for lunch this afternoon, I decided to walk into town and get 
something at the cafe. 

There weren't many people on the street as I walked 
through the center of town. It was hot enough to keep everyone 
behind their fans and their air-conditioning. As I approached 
Whitaker Cafe down State Street, I could see the young 
stranger's dusty dog sitting on the porch of the cafe. It was the 
same dog I had met that morning, and as I mounted the steps to 
the cafe, I reached my hand out to pat her head. She didn't make 
a sound, didn't even raise her nose from where it lay on her 
paws, but she looked into my eyes again, and her look was 
enough to freeze my hand in mid-pet. This dog did not want to 
be touched. 

I opened the door to the cafe and walked into thick, 



92 



refreshing, cool air. The bell jingled as I closed the door, and I 
took my usual seat right inside, at the counter. I could see the 
young traveler at the far end of the counter, drinking a cup of 
coffee and staring into his saucer. George Whitaker gave me a 
nod from behind the counter and set a huge, cold glass of his 
home-brewed iced-tea in front of me. "How's fishin', Earl?" He 
asked me. 

"Not a nibble, Whit. Not a nibble." He was standing in 
front of me, at the very end of the lunch-counter. As I watched 
him work, he kept leaning back and looking out the front win- 
dow. From where I sat, I could see he was looking at the dog on 
his porch. I ordered a ham sandwich, because I was mad at fish. 
As I ate, I couldn't help but watch my old friend's strange behav- 
ior. He would work a bit, cooking or cleaning something, then 
return to his position in front of me and lean back so he could 
look at the dog. I noticed that he didn't pay the stranger much 
mind at all, but the dog had piqued his interest. And every time 
he looked out the window, his brow became a bit more knotted. 
Finally, I couldn't stand it any more. "Whit, what the hell is the 
matter with you?" 

He looked at me, shook his head a bit, leaned back, 
looked outside and shook his head some more. He stared at me 
for a time without saying anything, just shaking his head slowly. 
"Earl," he started, "we been friends a long time, yeah?" 

"Longer'n I care to admit, sure." I sipped my tea. 

"And you know I'm no crazier'n anyone else here. We 
go to the same church... went to the same school...." 

"Sure, Whit. What's going on?" 

"Well." He started to lean back again, stopped himself, 
and looked at the floor. "Earl, it's that goddamn dog!" He 
looked deep into my eyes, gauging my reaction. 

I had no idea what was making him so agitated. He 
started pacing back and forth in front of me. "What in God's 
name are you going on about?" I asked him. 

"Don't you recognize that dog, you old fart?" His voice 
was rising, quivering, and we both turned and looked at the 
stranger down at the far end of the counter, but he just sipped his 
coffee and stared straight out in front of him, at nothing. I 
leaned over and looked out the window myself. The dog lay as it 
had when I first came in, with her nose on her front paws. As I 
watched, not once did her legs kick, nor her ears twitch. She 
didn't shift or groan or move the slightest bit. But she was not 
familiar. 



93 



"I don't, actually. I still don't know what you're babbling 
about, Whit." He rolled his eyes and threw his arms up in exas- 
peration. He checked the stranger again with a dramatic side- 
long glance and leaned over to whisper in my ear. 

"It's the Taylor dog!" He hissed. 

I stopped chewing my sandwich and tried to remember 
who he was talking about. "Whit, the only Taylors I know of 
around here was Lee Taylor and his family, but ... well...." Now 
my brow was knitted up and I leaned clear across the counter 
and looked outside. "Now come on, Whit!" 

He was nodding his head at me. "I'm tellin ya' ! I know 
it, Earl. I been chewing it over and over for thirty minutes before 
you come in here, and I'm telling ya', it is the goddamn Taylor 
dog!" 

"But...." As I tried to understand what I was being told, 
the stranger stood up from his stool. He pulled a few, rumpled 
dollars from his pocket and threw them on the counter, picked 
his rucksack up from where it lay on the floor at his feet, and 
clumped his way past us toward the door. 

"Thank ya', now," Whit called after him. The young 
stranger nodded at us and jingled his way outside. On the porch 
we saw him hitch his pack up on his back and make his way 
south on State Street, back toward the river. I couldn't hear the 
soft whistle from inside, but the dog hopped up and trotted off, 
close to the man's left leg. 

A few other customers came and went and George 
Whitaker fed them and watered them and thanked them now. 
Finally we were alone and he turned the 'Open' sign over to read 
'Closed.' He walked up to the counter and sat on the stool 
beside me. "Well?" He asked. 

"Whit, you know as well as I do that Lee Taylor and his 
family died in that hurricane, what was it? Fifteen... twenty years 
ago?" 

"Twenty, Earl. Twenty years ago. This month!" 

"And the dog, Whit. The dog drowned with the rest of 
them. Drowned saving the little boy, as I recall. What was the 
boy's name?" 

"Lance. His name was Lance Taylor. But do you re- 
member where they got the dog from?" I was beginning to think 
that my friend had taken to drinking early, or, God forbid, he was 
beginning to get a bit loopy. 

"Whit, this is nonsense. Of course I can't remember that 
far back, and neither can you!" 

"I can, because I gave that pup to Lee Taylor when the 

94 



boy was born! Earl, that dog came from the same litter as 
Petey!" For a little over fifteen years Old Pete had been a fixture 
at Cafe Whitaker, lying inside or on the porch, greeting regulars 
and sponging affection from locals and passers-through alike. 
Old Pete had practically been the town mascot. 

"Damnit, Whit, Pete's been dead ten years now. That 
dog isn't even middle-aged yet." I thought of the Taylors, and 
their dog. It had been a female, I remembered now. And it was 
one of the smaller dogs from that litter. I'd only seen her occa- 
sionally, with the boy as he grew older. Always with the boy. 
And the color.... 

"Come on! You done with that sandwich yet?" I looked 
at my plate. I hadn't eaten half of it, but I wasn't hungry any- 
more. 

"I guess...." 

Whit stood up and grabbed my arm. "Come on!" The 
bell jingled after us and we headed south on State Street. 

We walked in silence to the end of State street and took a 
left on Huntington. George Whitaker walked determinedly. His 
chin was out and his fists were clenched. I was not as deter- 
mined, and I had to push myself to keep up with him. I was 
confused. The color of the dog.... Pete had been a deep choco- 
late color from head to toe. His fur had been short, with a glossy 
sheen. And he had been big for a Lab. The stranger's dog, on 
the other hand, was much smaller, even for a female. And her 
coat was lighter, with that brilliant rust color brought out by the 
sunlight. This dog was much different from Old Pete. And the 
characteristics that made the stranger's dog so different from 
Pete were the same ones that had differentiated the Taylor boy's 
dog from a young Pete. 

"No, Whit. It's impossible. We're just remembering that 
dog in the form of the one we saw today. This is ridiculous." 
We both turned down McCabe Lane at the same time, drawn to 
the same place. It was a narrow gravel drive, which ran a few 
hundred yards back from the river, all the way to the next county. 

"Impossible. ..ridiculous. ..I'm telling you, Earl, I know 
what I'm talking about." He stopped walking and turned to look 
me in the face. "I have it on tape! I have that goddamned dog 
on tape!" He spun around and stormed off up the lane. We 
passed a few drives leading off to some newer houses and prop- 
erties along the river. 

The river had just about wiped out the entire town twenty 
years ago. A hurricane had come early that year, a bad one. It 

95 



had crushed the coastal towns and careened inland, pushing more 
water up the river in one twenty-four hour period than the river 
would normally see in six months. The rain had barely even 
begun and the river flooded its banks. It rose ten feet in the first 
two hours and then the wind got really nasty. The trees, which 
had sheltered our families and properties for generations, began 
tearing the town apart. The Whitakers' roof had been ripped 
away by the wind, and Whit's five-year old son had been crushed 
by a falling bookshelf. That was but one example, and others 
had it worse than Whit. The Taylors had it worse. 

We were nearing the Taylor's property now. Their house 
had stood close to the river, elevated on old wooden pilings. Lee 
Taylor's grandfather had built the house, and he built it strong, 
but the strength of the winds and the mad gluttony of the river 
were the highest in recorded history on that horrible day, twenty 
years past. The Taylor house was rent asunder and sent careen- 
ing down the furious river in pieces. And the entire family, save 
young Lance, was consumed by the cool water. 

More than fifty people in our small town alone died in 
that storm. The circumstances which made the Taylors' sad fate 
so memorable were merely a matter of coincidence. There was a 
young journalism student visiting that summer, doing a school 
project about small towns like ours. He rented a room above the 
cafe, from George Whitaker, for a month or so. On the day of 
the storm, he had been out hiking on the far side of the river. He 
had a movie camera with him, and he was filming the river and 
the thick woods on the far bank. When the storm sprang up, and 
the water suddenly rose around him, he realized what was hap- 
pening and he panicked. He floundered toward a small, unoccu- 
pied fishing boat that came speeding by, and managed to some- 
how jump inside, thinking he could make it quickly across the 
growing river. Instead, he was hurtled downstream, and at the 
second bend after the bridge, the boat crashed into a growing 
log-jam and was stuck there, still on the far side of the river, for 
the remainder of the storm. 

The young student looked everywhere for some kind of 
help and, as he looked across the river from where he was stuck, 
he could see the Taylor's house come apart. And he had raised 
the camera to his eye and he had gotten all of it. He and the 
young Taylor boy had eventually been rescued, and the student's 
tape had been shown nationally. The student had gone on to 
become famous at some big-city newspaper, or television station, 
and Lance Taylor had been sent wherever they send young boys 



96 



who are orphaned under traumatic circumstances. 

Whit and I stepped off of McCabe Lane and slowly 
entered the clearing where the Taylor house had stood. "See 
that!" Whit whispered. The stranger squatted at the edge of the 
water, much as he had when I first saw him, leaning out over the 
quiet river, dipping his hand now and again. The dog lay in the 
shade of an old tree, neither panting nor drooling, just watching 
the glassy flow of the water. Whit and I bent down a bit behind 
the long grass and brush that owned this property. "You see, 
Earl," Whit was tugging on my sleeve, "It's that damn Taylor 
kid!" 

"Shhh!" As we watched, the young man stood and 
turned around. He scanned the property back and forth. I was 
convinced he had heard Whit's big mouth and was trying to 
locate us, but I was wrong. The man's gaze stopped toward the 
middle of the property and he walked to the spot he had found, 
stooped down and stood up with a brilliant purple wildflower in 
his hand. He walked again to the edge of the quiet river and 
tossed in the flower. From where we were crouched we could 
see the sun light up the spot where it landed. Purple spun around 
twice, hesitated, and then accelerated downstream. The man 
stood and watched the flower go, then whistled softly and man 
and dog set off downstream after it. 

We waited until they were gone and we walked down to 
the river ourselves, past the stumps of ruined pilings. At the 
water's edge, I squatted as he had squatted and gracefully dipped 
my hand in the ever-moving surface. The water was cool, but 
not cold, and the current pulled my hand as if encouraging me 
downstream. 

The projector rattled and chattered as it spun its tragic 
tale. Smoke from Whit's cigarette drifted up through the black 
and white images cast on the far wall of the room. We both 
drank greedily from our cold cans of beer. First a jumble of 
snow and blank frames of film, then, suddenly, a clear image of 
the Taylor place through beating sheets of rain. The river was 
brown and angry, and the water was up behind the Taylor prop- 
erty, inundating everything up to McCabe Lane. The house 
leaned to the right, slowly at first. As we watched, the pilings 
gave way one at a time, and the house began to break up. Some- 
one, Mrs. Taylor I assume, fell from an upstairs window and was 
swept away. The house lost all recognizable form as pieces large 
and small were carried downstream. Then the camera focused 

97 



on a form clinging to the base of one of the pilings. It was Lee 
Taylor, holding onto what was left of the piling with one arm. 
With his other he held onto his youngest daughter. The poor girl 
was buffeted and flung about by the current until finally, she was 
snatched from the elder Taylor's grasp. He screamed once, I 
could almost hear it, even without sound, and then let go the 
piling, to be with his family. As the last vestiges of the family 
known as Taylor were carried away, a small head broke the 
surface of the water. It was young Lance Taylor, and as he 
floundered and choked and was grabbed by the water, the dog 
could be seen swimming from the direction of McCabe Lane and 
dry land. As we watched, the dog grabbed the collar of the 
Taylor boy's shirt and began paddling toward shore. Whit and I 
both leaned closer to the image we were watching. Remarkably, 
even through the rain and the spray from the river, one could see 
the pair, boy and dog, clearly, if only for a moment. It was the 
boy's dog, Pete's sister, the same dog we had seen this day. We 
saw them for a moment, then they were gone from the camera's 
view, and the film was over. 

Whit turned off the projector, and flipped on the lights. 
He looked at me as I took a long swig of my beer. "The boy 
lived, as I suppose you know. But I saw the body of that damn 
dog myself. She drowned saving that kid!" I just looked at my 
beer and nodded my head. Whit sat down again next to me. 
"Goddamn spawn of Satan, what we saw today." 

"I don't know, my friend," I said. "Seems more like an 
angel to me." Whit snorted and went to fetch some more beer. 



98 




Untitled 

Sharon McCusker 
pen and ink 



99 



Gone 

Kimberly Porter 



As I watch the flicker of the flame 

my mind begins to wander. 

I begin to wander off as if in a daze. 

I can remember your face, 

but only now while my mind 

is at a repetitive pace. 

I know not where I have traveled 
but I have been here before, 
I know it, I feel the glow of my soul 
I can remember your face. 
There is a peace of sweet nothing. 
That is always known. 

I feel no physical presence 

only the energy of myself. 

No longer existing as I 

know it... still 

I remember your face. 

No longer are 

you here in this earthly domain 

but no, you are not gone. 



100 







o. 



5 - C 



> 



101 



For Want of Slumber 

Mike Rios 



Everything happened quickly that morning, after Billy swallowed 
the sleeping pills. At first he had feared nothing would happen as he lay 
down on his bed and closed his eyes. He hadn't been tired in the least, even 
after a restless night of contemplation. In fact, he had risen from his bed 
with an unexpected vigor, which had propelled him on the quarter of a mile 
walk to the drugstore where the plainfaced clerk had rung up the four 
boxes of Dozeallnite without so much as a blink. He was surprised at how 
much energy he had. It seemed to him that he had lacked any sort of energy 
for a long time. And now that he didn't need it he had an abundance of it. 
But despite this energy Billy felt calm, extremely calm. 

Only a few minutes had passed away when he felt a sting on his toe. 
It was more like a pinprick, and he hadn't thought much of it until he felt 
another. And then suddenly all his toes and the soles of his feet were being 
pricked here and there, culminating in a haphazard tingling. The sensation 
spread quickly, rising up his calves like an army of charging ants. He sat up 
and started to rub his legs when he felt a tiny wave of pricks on his fingers. 
His hands started shaking as this wave, too, began spreading along his 
palms and across his wrists. 

He threw himself back down upon the bed and tried to lie still, 
realizing at once what was happening. He tried to say it in his mind, to 
sound out the words in his thoughts. I'm.... I'm.... He couldn't complete 
the sentence although he knew that he had to have thought it already. Why 
else would he be struggling to say it if he hadn't already thought it? Is this 
how it feels to...? he asked no one in particular. A thousand, two thousand 
needles'? 

What will they think when they find me? He opened his eyes and 
looked around his room. The eighteen by twelve foot space, which had 
been his world for these past few months, was decorated with empty liquor 
bottles (from when he had a job), empty beer bottles (from the time after 
he walked out of his job, never to return to it or any other), dirty laundry 
(including the only three shirts he owned and one he had stolen), and 
crushed cigarette boxes (piled in a corner by the pornographic videos). 
Missing from the room's decorations was a non-existent note penned by a 
man who wished to no longer exist. Why leave a note? he had asked 
himself. The body '11 explain it all, won 't it? Won 't it? But the real reason he 
hadn't written a note was not that he had felt it unnecessary. He couldn't 
find something to write the note with and lacking the energy to look for a 
pen or pencil or marker or crayon or. . .he had simply given up, like he had 



102 



on the playground when climbing the jungle gym had become too difficult, 
like he had in college when writing papers had become too difficult, like he 
had in the desert when carrying a bleeding soldier, a bleeding man, a 
bleeding friend, had become too difficult. Am I giving up again? Do I 
ignore this energy inside of me telling me to get my ass up? I thought you 
didn 't want to get up anymore? I thought. . . you thought. . . I thought. . . . 

He jumped off the bed and ran into the living room where his 
roommate was arguing with her boyfriend again. "Elizabeth," he managed 
to say, "I think I need a ride to the hospital." 

The next moment he was standing at the entrance to the emergency 
room at St. Mark's closing the passenger door of a blue pickup truck. 
From inside, Elizabeth's boyfriend wished him well while revving the 
engine. Billy watched him shoot across the parking lot before he could 
offer his thanks. 

It didn't take long for the doctors to see him. They were upon him 
as soon as he told the receptionist what he had done. He gave them his 
name and address and social security number and, in turn, they held his 
arms (which were violently shaking), forced him to swallow the thickest, 
blackest liquid he had ever seen, and stuck a long tube down his throat. 
One of the doctors said, "All right, now," and Billy watched as the globbish 
contents of his stomach rushed through the tube, exiting into an unseen 
container with a continuous plop, plop. This made him vomit some more 
until there was nothing remaining in his stomach but the tube. They ex- 
tracted that with one pull while he let out a long breath. Then they con- 
nected him to an intravenous unit and a monitor, and left. 

He lay there alone for what he thought were hours, trying to regain 
a sense of calm, a difficult task given the needle lodged in his arm and the 
monitor directly facing him like a possessed television he could not turn 
off. He told himself, however, that the needle was an obvious necessity, 
that his body surely needed the basic nourishment the intravenous unit was 
dispensing drop by drop. And the monitor? Another necessity. But why did 
it have to face him? Perhaps one of the doctors thought it would do the kid 
some good to watch his heart-rate and blood pressure bounce along a 
screen for a while. Maybe the kid' 11 think twice next time. 

"Right in there," he heard a woman's voice say. 

"Thank you." Another voice, this one familiar. 

He turned towards the door and saw Elizabeth walk in. She sat next 
to the bed and asked, "How are you feeling?" 

"Scared," he admitted. 

"I can imagine," she said, looking at him with what he first thought 
to be pity. But there was something else in her eyes, something he had seen 
somewhere before. 

"I see they gave you charcoal." 

He just stared at her. 

103 



"The black stuff you swallowed. You have some on your lips." She 
smiled at this. 

"Oh," he said like five year-old, wiping his mouth. "Sorry, I wasn't 
expecting any visitors." 

She leaned forward and delicately wiped a finger on the edge of his 
bottom lip. "Missed some." 

"Thanks." 

"You're welcome." 

Neither spoke for a few seconds. When one of them did it was 
Billy. 

"How'd you know it was charcoal?" 

"That's what they gave me." 

"Oh," he said, embarrassed again. 

"I accidentally drank some anti-freeze once. I know, you're won- 
dering 'How do you drink anti-freeze by accident?' Well, when you have a 
boyfriend stupid enough to keep it in a bottle of Gatorade in the cab of his 
truck and you're driving along one day and you get thirsty, it's pretty easy." 

He laughed. He couldn't help doing so. But before he could apolo- 
gize Elizabeth started laughing, too. 

"I have to admit, I can laugh about it now, but when they were 
putting that tube in my mouth I was terrified. I thought I was going to. ..." 

He silently nodded. 

"I, uh, I don't know what I'm doing here. I mean, when Brandon 
came back and I asked him how you were and he said he just dropped you 
off I was mad. I was furious. I told him we should come see you and he 
said, 'Why?' I said 'He's my roommate, that's why.' Jesus, what kind of 
question is that? Some things you just do. You shouldn't have to explain, 
you know?" 

Billy realized what he saw in her eyes. It almost flattened him. 

She stood as if to leave. "I've got to get to work. Besides, you need 
your rest." 

He took her hand in his, surprised by the amount of energy it took 
to do so. His lips parted to ask her to.... He couldn't, he had no right to. 
Instead he freed her hand and watched her leave the room, all the while 
listening to the sound of her footsteps fade slowly until it was consumed by 
the droning hum of the air conditioner. He closed his eyes once again that 
morning and he didn't open them until later that evening when the sound of 
footsteps returned, awakening him from something more than his sleep. 

"Hi," he said. 

"Hi." 



104 




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105 



REM 

Erica Bryant 



Every waking moment 

I think about your beautiful brown eyes 

golden brown complexion 

the holes that appear in your face when you smile. 

Every waking moment 

I feel your soft hands caressing my back, my thighs, my breast 

taking me to that special place in ecstasy that only your touch can. 

Every waking moment 

I smell your sensual aroma "Ralph Lauren Safari" 

like an African mezzanine 

my body waits for your to explore its genuine beauty. 

Every waking moment 

I call your name 

you come to me 

I hold you in my arms and tell you how much I love you 

and you speak the words of love back to me 

then you fade away 

suddenly I realize 

my every waking moment with you 

is in my dreams. 



106 




1 






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GO 


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107 



Scattered Showers 

Seth Riley 



Maybe they're right. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to talk about it. I 
tumble the story, of that day I mean, around in my head day in and day out. 
Like laundry spinning around my mind all the time and I still don't know 
that I'll be able to describe it. When I'm just thinking, the pieces can just 
float where they will. You follow? Anyway, I'll give you your logical 
progression, if you think it'll get us anywhere. 

I still think about her every day, thoughout of all of the years that we 
were together, it's the last day that I can't forget. I've found that my 
memories of her before that day have dulled, but the memory of her that 
Wednesday is blazed, if you will, into my mind. Six years have passed, but 
with every day that goes by, I feel like I've moved back closer to it. Almost 
funny, I think, how the day started out as if it would replicate the stream of 
Wednesdays that came before it. 

Wednesdays. They've always particularly frustrating for me, so you'll 
have to excuse me if I get carried away. So, here we begin. Wednesday 
morning. Six forty-five, alarm howling, I roll onto my side and scowl at the 
oversized red numbers. Around six fifty-three I can't take the buzzing 
anymore and step out of bed. So begins another day. 

Pants go on, left leg first. Slipping into the black dress shoes that still 
carry the veneer of their spit shine from the night before, I can smell the 
coffee that's started to brew and send its aroma up the stairs. Don't leave 
without saying goodbye. Kiss her on the forehead; she won't feel it, but my 
lips have been there just the same. 

She won't be up until the talk show stages are filled and I've already 
done hours worth of work. With a goodbye firmly planted on her skin, I 
walk downstairs and pour my coffee. Slip on my black trench coat, cinch 
the waist, and pick up an umbrella to help the coat in a collaborative effort 
to protect me from the elements. The elements; now that's where the 
difference for that Wednesday came into play. 

It was god awful outside. The sun never even rose that morning. Au- 
tumn rain was pelting the windows and echoing off of the roof, hard at 
work before the day began. The early November air was frigid, intensified 
by the mingled chills of morning and the pouring rain. Dart to the car. Turn 
the key. Along with the roar of the engine comes the chatter of the voices 
of morning radio. Caller number twelve has just won lunch for two at the 
Elk Room. Congratulations caller number twelve. 

That day's liaison with the morning personalities was unfortunately 



108 



lengthened due to the inclement weather. Its not just the disc jockeys that 
get me. They're bad enough, but then throw in the commercials. Like the 
car dealerships that tell you about this great deal and then read the little red 
print really fast and in a different voice. It's like if they just read the state- 
ment outright that says, "Okay, so we lied. We'll screw you so hard that 
you end up paying twice the sticker price but you don't have to pay a dime 
of it until the year 2000." Just use that quick new voice and I guess they 
suppose we morning listeners don't get their trick. Sorry, back to the point. 

It's raining so hard that I can barely see the road. Not even people to 
watch in the rear view images that remind you that you're not alone. 
Innumerable faces, dead eyes focused on the asphalt, counting the broken 
white lines, smoking their cigarettes and pounding down their coffee before 
the work day begins. Fueling up their bodies before floundering through 
another day; pumping in the chemicals that keep the bones moving until the 
time clock frees them. No, not that day. 

Only the water obscuring the view of the streets and the hypnotic dance 
of the windshield wipers, trying so hard to keep the deluge away. One of 
those mornings where you hear the wipers scraping against the window for 
so long that you begin to think there's a tune there. Anyway, at ten minutes 
until eight I enter the firm. 

My wet shoes squeak on the cold marble floors, echoing through the 
lobby as I tentatively walk towards the elevator. The bell boy touches the 
button for the third floor and as it lights up he musters up one of the three 
or four mundane salutations from his repertoire, all of which are dependent 
on the day's weather. "Good morning, Mr. Weeks. Hope you didn't get too 
wet out there." 

"Like water off a duck's back, Joe," I reply and step off the elevator. If 
you have nothing nice to say, talk about the weather. 

My secretary meets me at the corner, looking uncharacteristically pale, 
her eyes sallow beneath her long white forehead, topped with a tight gray 
twist of hair. "Morning Sally. Why so grim?," I inquire. 

"Am I grim today, sir? Maybe its the weather. Something in the air. 
There's coffee made." 

I extend my mug, gesturing for a warm-up. "I don't know how I'd get 
through the day without you, Sal," I say with a wink, noticing as I take my 
mug from her hand that a glimmer has come to her tired blue eyes. 

Past her desk and into my office I walk, ready to start the clock and sit 
down with the morning paper. When I reached my door, however, I'm 
faced with a semicircle of chairs, holding the three crusty partners of the 
firm. In lieu of individual description, I'll simply ask you to draw it from 
what you've seen hundreds of time on television and in the movies. 
Crooked, hardened men with noses painted over with broken blood vessels 

109 



like a canvas for the stress of years of staying just one step ahead of their 
game. 

There before me sat the cliche, broken into three models, each a decade 
or so closer to the grave than the next. Three corpulent necks bound tightly 
by starched collars, with their round red faces above glistening with oil. I 
cannot even remember their individual faces now, nor even in their pres- 
ence could I close my eyes and visualize them. 

"Weeks, take a seat please. We need to talk to you." 
I feel myself flush and my legs going weak, so I walk gingerly to my desk 
and sit down in my chair, facing them and suspecting that I'm about to play 
out a tragedy for the amphitheater before me. "What's the problem, gentle- 
men," I ask in a falsely flippant tone. 

"Well, Weeks," says the elder Mr. Drake, " it's like this. While the firm's 
a family, we're also a business. When a branch of that family tree starts 
dying, you have to saw it off so that it doesn't spread to the rest. In short, 
your work's not up to par, Son." 

"So you're cutting me off? Four years and I hit my first losing streak. It 
happens to everyone sooner or later. Besides, all I can do is argue against 
the evidence." 

"It's not about evidence, Weeks, it's about romancing the jury. You 
used to have it. Your client's hands could be covered in blood and you 
could win the jury over with just the right smile," replies Mr. Jackson, the 
eldest of the three. 

"Look," I say, "Give me the chance and I know that I can get it back. 
Let me have a week, come on. God knows, I could use a vacation. I think I 
just need to clear out the cobwebs." 

The junior Mr. Drake stiffens at my words and says, "Six months 
without a win, Weeks, six months. I'd say that winning smile's gone for 
good. It's like you don't even give a damn if you win or lose anymore." 

"Please, Sir," I say, "I can still care." 

"I'm sorry Tom, but this time you lose again," he replies. "Honestly, 
we're all afraid that your luck is gonna rub off on us. We don't need that 
here." 

With that, I rise, open my briefcase and fill it with the few personal 
effects scattered about the office, including the picture of my wife from my 
desk. As I slide her into my bag, I'm struck afresh with the genuine happi- 
ness of her smile as it was six years ago when the photograph was taken. 
Her youthful green eyes, the wisps of auburn hair that broke free of the 
pearl clamp holding her locks in place. A beautiful face whose fire only 
lived in pictures and memories. 

Only five years of marriage had fossilized the image of her in the frame, 
keeping it vibrant in spite of time. In reality, the eyes had grown tired from 
the boredom of watching the four walls around her. Anxiety pills had 

110 



preserved the smile, though the happiness behind it had given way to 
stoicism. Through all the boredom of decorating and redecorating, watch- 
ing endless hours of television and catalog shopping, the wax smile had 
kept up the pretense. 

Jane. I could sit in the office and stare at her for hours. I felt more 
passion in the frame than in the cold hands at home. Once the picture is 
safely at the bottom of my briefcase, I can feel the divorce between me and 
the woman in the picture. Now I'd sit at home with the real Jane. The one 
who kept the shades drawn all day, pacing around the house in the robe 
that she'd slept in and sterilizing the house until night gave way to morn- 
ing. I could see it as plain as day, sitting with her in our showplace; the love 
child of her boredom and my money. Funny how, if you install plumbing 
and hang some paintings on the walls, the monkeys don't even realize 
they're in a cage. Six years together and now all I could think of were 
those beautifully damning words. "Till death do us part." 

Brought back by the realization that the Misters Drake, Drake and 
Jackson of Jackson, Drake and Drake sit watching me, waiting in the room 
as I scavenge about for anything that I may want to take with me, I decide 
to abandon all but the picture in my bag and the mug in my hand that my 
nephew gave to me. Its great, you know, it says "Hang In There" and has 
that pissed off wet cat hanging from a tree limb. Nothing. Four years, I 
think, and all I'm walking with is a picture and some tepid coffee. Hang in 
there! 

I sling my bag across my shoulder and stroll to the door, past the part- 
ners, looking back into the oak paneled office at the barren mahogany desk, 
turning around only to say, "I'm really gonna miss the family. You men take 
care. I'm sure there are some great lawyers in hell to help plead your 
cases." With a squint of my eyes and a smirk disguised as a smile covering 
my face, I head for the elevator. 

On my way, I pass Sally, slinking towards my office with a pot of coffee 
in hand. Casting her eyes towards me and then back to the floor, she 
mutters, "We both knew it was coming, Sir. We'll really miss you around 
here." With a defeated smile, I step into the elevator and am, once again, 
greeted by the bell hop, who replies, "Leaving early today? Well, Sir, it's 
still coming down out there. Try to stay dry." Looking him dead in the eye, 
I try to comment on the rain but decide that silence is much more polite. 

Throwing open the lobby doors, I step into the street, leaving no im- 
pression behind me, save for the dying echo of my squeaking soles. The 
sun hadn't yet found its way through the pall of the storm, though the rain 
seemed like a shelter from the sun's light. Throwing my umbrella onto the 
sidewalk, I step into my car and turn the key. Well, you don't say. Caller 
number seven just won tickets to see the Stones. Congratulations caller 

ill 



number seven. 

How can I tell her, I think, as I slowly navigate the car through the 
flooding streets. What was the slogan, "Say it with flowers?" Though she 
was normally upset by the invasion of her home by the innumerable pollen 
particles, she couldn't resist lilies. Lilies were the one guarantee that I'd see 
the semblance of that old smile one last time before I told her. Traffic was 
moving so slowly that I seemed to be at a standstill. Deciding to break free 
of the frozen traffic, I pull to the car over to the curb and put it in park. 
Stepping forth into the rain, I begin walking west towards the florist. 

The door swings open, setting off like five of those little bells that make 
it virtually impossible to make a quiet entrance. The cold air of the store is 
magnified by my wet skin and sopping clothing. The walls are covered in 
lattice with artificial greenery interwoven throughout. Helium-filled bal- 
loons hover above the room. The dearth of fresh flowers in vases and the 
coolers fills the air with that sweet but pungent aroma that could only come 
from a florist or a funeral parlor. 

"Morning, sir," chirps the fat woman behind the long counter, "It's a 
nasty one, huh? Can I help you with something?" 

"I sure hope so," I reply, giving her a glimpse of my winning smile. 

Over and over she drones about how wonderful it is to know that there 
are still romantics out there. Coming through that weather for flowers and 
all. Being the only customer in the store on such a day, I become the target 
of her one sided conversation. I stand there in silence, arms folded, and 
watch her wrap the flowers with a precision that tells me that she hadsn't 
figured out yet that not a damn soul notices the difference. 

Staring down at her substantial wrists, watching her motions as she 
wraps the paper into a bouquet, I notice that she's wearing a thin gold 
wedding band, nearly obscured by the abundance of the fleshy folds of her 
skin. Her arms are the same fish-belly white that Jane's slender arms have 
become; the sign of lost contact with the sunlight and countless hours 
under fluorescent lamps. That same transparent skin that revealed the 
hollow blue veins underneath. I figured that gold ring meant that some 
other poor bastard was probably kicking himself for that same "till death do 
us part" speech. 

"These are going to be just perfect. Your wife's a very lucky woman, 
but I'm sure she knows that," she says with a smile. 

I respond with a quiet smile. 

Stepping back into the rain, soaking wet and directionless, I continue 
walking in the opposite direction of my car. The rain began to come down 
harder and the stream running down the pavement had risen to the level of 
my shoes, pouring in and drenching my feet. Trying in vain to shield the 
lilies, I spot a staircase across the street that leads down to the basement of 
an immense red brick building. I cross over and look down the stairs to see 

112 



the word "OPEN" spelled out in red lights on the solitary window, save for 
a small porthole in the heavy oak door. I descend the stairs and make my 
way inside. 

No bells on this door, I think as I enter, only to find that this time it's 
hard to go unnoticed due to the fact that I am one of only three customers 
that I see, the other two being a couple hidden in a corner table. No light 
from outside seemed to make it into the room, leaving the illumination up 
to the reflection against the brick of the walls of the candles set on each of 
the tables and the green banker's lights adorning the bar. After stealing a 
sideways glance at the loving pair, I scan the room for a bartender. 

Aside from my couple, the only other semblance of life in the room 
seems to be the music coming from the neon bubbling jukebox by the bar. I 
make my way up to the bar and take a seat, eagerly awaiting the initial 
sensation of the alcohol infusing my veins. I am still looking around for a 
bartender when a faceless male voice chokes out, "So are those flowers for 
me? You shouldn't have." 

Caught off guard, I crane my head around to discover an old man 
seated at the end of the bar with a pipe in his hand and a half-empty glass 
before him. Realizing that he is the source of the voice, I focus my gaze on 
the man. "You look like you need to find a bartender pretty bad, pal," the 
old man says. 

"Understatement. How do I get service around here?" I inquire curtly. 

"The flowers then, I suppose, aren't for me. That's a shame. Bartender 
stepped into the kitchen. Give him a minute," he says. 

Within seconds, a tall young man with greased down black hair and pale 
skin rounds the corner. Judging from the young man's clothing, black 
pants, a white shirt, and a black bow tie, I gather that he is the bartender 
and simply state, "Manhattan. Straight up." 

"Coming up," he replies. 

"I could've ordered for you," the old man announces. "All lawyers 
drink the same thing. I don't know though. It's a toss up between that and 
a vodka martini, so it's good that you ordered." 

"How did you know that," I ask, as the bartender lays out a napkin on 
the bar and places my drink on top. 

"Look at yourself, walking around in the rain in a thousand dollar suit, 
dripping wet and carrying around a bunch of flowers getting beaten down 
with rain. Didn't exactly take Nostradamus to predict that you needed a 
stiffdrink." 

"That I'm a lawyer, I mean. How'd you know that?" 

"Want a cigarette? I smoke a pipe, but I still have to keep cigarettes on 
me," the man says. 

"I quit, thanks." 

113 



"That's funny. I thought you were fired," he said. 

"What? How do you know about my job?" 

"It's hard to carry on a conversation from all the way down here. Mind 
if I move down there by you?," the man asks, though he stands up and 
begins to move his drink and ashtray in my direction before I can respond. 

As the man comes closer and settles beside me, I'm able to clearly make 
out his image. Silver hair, slightly feathered at the temples. Long slender 
hands, smooth with pointed nails. His eyes were ice blue, like crystal pools 
whose surfaces change with every ripple. Frightfully inviting yet deeper 
than the swimmer might expect. He wore a dingy white dress shirt, covered 
by a faded brown velvet smoking jacket, about which hung the aroma of 
stale tobacco. 

His face and clothing had weathered so over his years, how ever many 
he'd seen, that he seemed to have grown right out of the bricks of the walls 
and the oak of the floor and bar. The low light of the room played on his 
features so that at one glance he appeared to be a very old sixty and at the 
next he seemed to be a youthful 1 10. His long white face was hairless 
except for the thick silver brows above his eyes. When next he spoke, I 
could smell the intoxicating mixture of smoke and bourbon 

"Do you need to talk? I'd say you need to talk, but I don't want to jump 
the gun," he says. 

"Look friend, I'm not ready to pour out my soul here. Besides, I don't 
even know who you are. Who might you be anyway?," I ask, washing my 
words down with a gulp of my drink. 

"I might be anyone, or anywhere for that matter. Something tells me 
that here is the place to be though." 

"Another," I say in the bartender's direction. "So this is the place to 
be?," I ask, once more directing my questions to the old man. 

"Well, let's look at your choices. Sitting in backed up traffic, waiting for 
the water on the roads to recede? Your office? Oh, sorry, scratch that one. 
At home?" 

"Can't go home yet. Unless my wife's as perceptive as you are, chances 
are that she doesn't know that I'm no longer employed. Actually, I'm here, 
I think, to think over how I can tell her. She's a little on the fragile side." 

"I wouldn't worry," the man replies, "you haven't broken her yet." 

"Me? You think I'm her problem?" 

"Slow down, now. I don't even know her." 

I sip my drink and try to explain myself. "Sorry. She's changed. I think 
she is broken, but I didn't break her. Every day I sit at my desk and stare at 
her picture, and I pray that she hasn't just ended it." 

Igniting a cigarette, the man looks at me with an intensity in his eyes 
and implores, "Why would she do a thing like that? Is it what you want?" 

"Jesus! That's rich." 

114 



"Well," says the man, drawing in on his pipe, "what do you want? 
Surely if that's what you both want then the two of you can come up with a 
solution. There are so many ways that both of you could do it efficiently if 
you're both so miserable. Most people would cut off their right hand to 
have what you both do." 

"Are you telling me that we should both kill ourselves? What the hell's 
wrong with you? And I'm not so sure anyone would give their right hand 
to be unemployed, or to go home to a virtually dead woman for that 
matter." With this, I lift my drink to my lips and swallow the last drop. 

"I'm only saying that, if it's really so damned bad, you've got your ways 
out. There's the old car exhaust trick where you just go to sleep. You could 
jump together from a bridge or something. Now, that should bring back the 
old romance." 

"Or something," I repeat. "I never said that I wanted to die, for Christ's 
sake." 

"Innumerable windows of escape, and as you sit here she sits at home, 
watching the bottle of pills on the table and thinking the same thing that 
you are. Maybe open up the lines of communication there, brother, and 
you'll actually get somewhere. It's the cowardly way, she knows that, but 
it's painless. Again, you just drift away." 

In disbelief, I stare up at the man and his lips part in a smile, revealing 
the crooked yellow teeth lining his graceful mouth. Unable to speak, I rise 
from my chair, grab the lilies from the bar, and start for the door. "Hey bud, 
I got your tab," the old man says with a wink of one of his crystal eyes. 

"It's the least you could do," I stammer, running out the door, back into 
the pouring rain. 

Shuffling through my pocket for my keys, I realize that my car is parked 
blocks away. Damn the power of suggestion! Some stranger who's never 
seen into my life for a second tells me my wife is at home, ready to end her 
life. It's no wonder that I get confused talking about it. Panic takes away 
your logic. Five minutes feel like five hours and suddenly time doesn't add 
up. 

My heart is racing as I try fruitlessly to catch sight of my car in the 
distance, knowing that Jane may be at home, drifting off to sleep. As I 
sprint down the busy street, rain pelting my eyes, my clothes slow me down 
from the weight of the water they've absorbed and their inclination to cling 
to my legs. I pull off my overcoat and cast it aside. Next, off comes the 
sopping silk tie and the black jacket of my suit. Finally, the socks and 
shoes. Having shed the bulk of my hindrance, I break back into a run, with 
my white shirt clinging to my chest and bare feet stinging as each foot 



115 



strikes the pavement. Clinched tightly in my fist, the flowers flop wildly 
about as I make my way. 

When at last I reach the car, I jump inside and turned the engine. The 
morning personalities are busy spinning some top-forty music and planning 
what to give away next to keep people listening. As I turn the corner, I see 
that, although the rain is still coming down, traffic is once again moving 
and my chances of making it home are good. For the twenty or so minutes 
of the drive home, my mind races ahead of me, bringing me images of a 
number of morbid scenarios into which I might walk. 

Fighting the images of my wife, having fallen victim to her own sorrow, 
dead on the cold bathroom floor, or comatose on the sofa, I try to jolt 
myself into reality by telling myself that the man was crazy. Maybe I'd been 
in trial with him and he knew my face. Maybe I was the reason that he went 
to jail. He was just pulling facts that he knew out of the air to trouble me or 
plant seeds of doubt in my head. Surely that was it. However convincing 
my arguments, I never decreased my speed. In fact, I sped up, knowing 
deep down that, had I ever seen those eyes before, I would surely remem- 
ber them. Ironic that I could tell myself that I could possibly forget them, 
for that's precisely what I've spent hours of every day since trying to do. 

Passing by the newsstand where I normally stopped in the morning and 
the cafe where I always stopped for lunch, to eat my turkey on wheat at 
noon, it hit me that she wasn't my problem. We were the same, Jane and I. 
Victims of a routine, stuck in the middle of a circle that whirled around us 
daily. My boredom was a vast desk with her memory staring me in the face. 
Hers was an empty house with my absence hanging in the cold, disinfected 
air. 

That Wednesday I realized that, if I intended to make it over the hump 
and on to Thursday and Friday, something had to break the routine. On 
reaching our home, I notice that the only light in the house is a glaring red 
blur dancing before the kitchen window. She'd fallen asleep and let the 
stove catch again, I was sure of it. Throwing open the front door and 
running through the foyer, my wet feet slip out from underneath me on the 
marble checkered floor. As I clamber onto my feet, my senses become 
aware of the smoke, which is instantly burning my eyes and clouding my 
lungs. 

I can smell the mingled odors of burning rubber and hair. As I shuffle 
into the kitchen doorway, covering my mouth and nose with my wet sleeve, 
I see that the old man was wrong. The pill bottle on the counter is still full, 
though alongside it stands a can of lighter fluid and a box of kitchen 
matches. I drop the battered lilies at my side and stand in the doorway, 
clutching the frame to support my body, the components of which have 
seemingly lost their synergy, leaving me unable to move a muscle. 

116 



Before me flails the source of the flame in the window. My wife, more 
awake than I've seen her in years. Her silk robe is nothing more now than a 
burn covering her steaming black body. The wayward wisps of her auburn 
hair are nothing more than blackened cinders. As she slumps to the hard 
tile, I take my last look into her wide open eyes. 

So there you have it. And, as I've said, I don't know that any of your 
questions or mine have been answered. Why she did it, I don't know. Why 
I didn't get there in time, I don't know. And why anyone would do some- 
thing so painful to herself, I don't know. I've always told myself that a 
man should never try to gather up sense where sense is not. Perhaps my 
doctors should stop and listen to my advice rather than this same old story. 
If they think that I understand it better than they, well they're wrong. I only 
know that I'd be free to move on, if only my alibi had told me his name. 



117 




Untitled 

Kelley Brown 
silver gelatin print 



118 



119 



120 



Acknowledgements 



Calliope is a student publication, and as such, all of the selection 
and layout work was performed by student editors and staff. However, 
there were a few folks who helped us out along the way. We would like to 
extend our thanks to Dr. Christopher Baker, who cleared away the under- 
brush for us, but also allowed us to forge our own path. We also wish to 
thank Peggy Witherow, who was always helpful; Mrs. Linda Jensen, who 
helped us again with art submissions; Joann Windeler, for helping us con- 
nect with the printers; and finally, Bill Reagan and Professional Printers, for 
everything. 

Most of all, we would like to thank those who submitted their 
creative writing and artwork, for without you, there would be no Calliope. 



121 



-vJ\ 



CALLIOPE 




■ 






imfe^i 



IB 



i 

SB 



— I 



2002 



■ 



Staff 



Editor: Michael E Roduin Sr. 

Assistant Editor: Emily Joost 

Art Editor: Stephanie Raines 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Christopher Baker 



Calliope is published annually by and for the students and faculty of 
Armstrong Atlantic State University. Funding is provided by the student 
government association of AASU. Outstanding selections receive the 
Lillian Spencer Awards and the art award. 

Submissions are accepted throughout the fall semester for the following 
years publication. Submissions should include the students address and 
phone number, and may be placed in one of the Calliope collection boxes 
located around campus. Any students interested in working on the 2003 
edition of Calliope should contact Dr. Christopher Baker in The Depart- 
ment of Languages, Literature, and Philosophy. 



Editor's Note 



In light of world events, the Calliope staff would like to dedicate 
this journal to the men and women who serve in the United States 
military. Soon, some of our own classmates will be serving our nation in 
a war zone. Those students, our friends, and the many AASU students 
who came before them, already serving in the armed forces, and the 
soldiers that we all know, are the reason for this dedication. Let us 
never forget what it is they give up for us. 

This years staff would also like to name names. Captain Shawn 
Roduin, Sgt. Thomas Nezbeda, Sgt. Brian Cole, Master Chief Edward 
Munyer, and the Captain and crew of the USS Kitty Hawk, CV-63. 
Thank you all. 

There may be some question as to the material contained in this 
journal. We, the staff, believe that this is a testimony to the freedom that 
is provided to us by our armed forces. 



Fiction 

A View of One's Own 

Mike Rios 

Stuck in a Moment 

Mike Rios 

Silence 

Jeanette Kehr 
Waste Nothing 

Lillian Spenser Award Recipient 
Jeanette Kehr 

I Should 

Stephanie McCord 

Pink at Night 
Michael E. Roduin Sr. 

Two Men 

Michael E. Roduin Sr. 

Mother Thersa 

Leslie Moses 
Sad Story 

Sarah Beth Link 



Poetry 

1-95 

Emily Joost 

Forsyth Park February 28 2001 
Emily Joost 

#18 

Ryan Clark 

#32 

Ryan Clark 

a mazing mouse 

Jeanette Kehr 

A Past Left Undone 

Ryan Clark 

Birthday Poem 

Melissa Hell 

Drinking Her 

Melissa Hill 

Finite Blue Eyes 
Sarah Beth Link 



Honey 

Melissa Hill 

Morning Rush 

Lillian Spenser Award Recipient 
Andy Wilharm 

One More Day 
Jeanette Kehr 

Pecking Order 

Jeanette Kehr 

Possession is 1 80 Proof 

Jeanette Kehr 

Red Shades 

Sarah Beth Link 

Sense 

Richard DiPirro 

The Attempt 

Emily Joost 

The Price of Gas These Days 

Brian Hansen 



this child of mine 

Jeanette Kehr 

Westside Urban Health Center 

Richard DiPirro 

Without this Ring 
Jeanette Kehr 

Witness 

Melissa Hill 

missionary on broad street 
John DeLong 

one thirty a.m. on south Carolina two-twenty-four 
John DeLong 

on warning labels and invitations 

Michelle Woodson 

Sunday 

Michelle Woodson 
Trove 

Michelle Woodson 



Artwork 

Lighthouse View 

Art Award Reciepent 
Jane Boswell 

Bloom 

Al John Fontanilla 

Hope 

Walter Benvides 

Self Portrait 

Cindy Nesmith 

Desire 

Amy Kidane 

Untitled 

Nina Nortone 

Why Me? 

Lisa Fordham 

Different View 

Selma Lewis 

Within 

Sebastian Philipp 



Aliens 

Nikki Baker 

Untitled 

Sebastian Philipp 

Transformation 

Al John Fontanilla 

Untitled 

Kitty Roberts 

Joshua and Gertrude 

Susanna 

My Little Pool 
Joe Blankenship 

Ideas Without End 

Stephanie Raines 

Cover Art: Operation Enduring Obession Part 3 

Stephanie Raines 



Fiction 



A View of One's Own 
Mike Rios 

Ajob! Ajob. She wants a job. I knew this would happen. I 
saw it coming the second she started bringing those damn books home. 
No, not the romance ones, the ones with Fabio and horses and — 
what's the deal with women and horses anyway? No, everything was 
fine when she read those kinds of books. I'm talking about the big 
books, the ones with ideas, not just stories. The ones that showed her 
what the world is really like. "Jimmy," she says to me one day, out of 
left field, "the world is not what it seems." Jesus Christ, no shit. I 
could have told you that. I thought I was going to get that promotion 
last year after busting my hump. Nope, no such luck. Gave it to Jones 
instead. Jones. The world ain't what it seems all right. Hard work 
don't always pay off. The best man for the job don't always get that 
job. "It took you how many books to learn that?" I asked her. With- 
out missing a beat she says she didn't learn it from any book. What 
she learned from reading was that other people saw it, too, and that 
other people could express (yeah, express, she used the word express) 
what they saw. That's when I knew. I knew there was going to be 
trouble. But I didn't do anything about it. I should've, but I didn't. I 
mean, so she thinks she's found some kind of connection with some 



book, maybe even some writer. Big deal, these guys are mostly dead 
anyway, right? What do I got to worry for? Besides, it's not like she was 
ignoring the kids or the food or my clothes or the house, you know? The 
books were on her free time. So I guess I kind of just hoped that I was 
wrong, that this wasn't going anywhere. Two months later I find out I 
was right, about as right as I could be. What happened? I'll tell you. I 
get home from work one night, after taking orders from I've-got-some- 
thing-to-prove Jones all day and I walk upstairs to take a shower when I 
hear the television in the kids' room. I go in to see what they're up to and 
instead I find no kids, just her watching some British lady in some library 
talking to the camera about Shakespeare's sister. I didn't even know he 
had a sister. I wonder what she looked like. (She was probably stacked; 
all women at that time were stacked.) Is this lady supposed to be some 
great, great granddaughter of hers or something? First I get shushed and 
then, when I insist on an answer, I get "No, she's playing Virginia Woolf," 
real calm-like, as if I should' ve known this already. Woolf? 
Shakespeare's sister was named Woolf? She shakes her head and tells me 
she'll explain later. Something about her voice bugs me. But I can't 
quite place it. So I say "fine" and go take my shower. In the middle of 
rinsing off it hits me. She sounded just like the lady on the video. She 
sounded like Martha Jones, the lady who's now my boss. She sounded 
strong. And tonight I get the I -want-a-job speech, something about 
having her own room. I told her we can't afford to make another addi- 
tion to the house. She threw a book at me, told me to read it and went to 
her mother's. So now I'm sitting here in front of the television wanting 
to watch the game but I got this problem. Do I let her work? I wonder if 
Shakespeare had this problem with Virginia. 



Stuck In A Moment 
Mike Rios 

Brandon Morales was on his way home. He descended the front steps 
of the station house and walked across the parking lot. He reached his pickup 
truck (make: Toyota; model: Tundra; year: 2001 ) and entered his vehicle. He 
never once looked around. 

He sat in the driver's seat for a moment, taking a deep breath of muggy 
air. Exhaling unhurriedly, Morales noticed he was holding the file he had been 
working on. He should not have taken it with him. True, he was not done with 
it, but he had promised Olivia no work tonight. He thought about taking the 
file back to the station and decided against doing so. He was the solitary 
detective working the case, barring Havard (who was lending a bit of help), and 
as such he knew the file would not be missed. He could just leave it in the 
pickup when he arrived home. Besides, he did not really feel like walking back 
into the crowded station, climbing the stairs, and returning to his desk; not 
because he was tired — which he was; he was nearly exhausted — but because he 
was afraid he would not be able to escape a second time on the same day. 

No, I've got to go home. 

Thinking of the trip home, a trip that would prove lengthy at this time 
of the afternoon, Brandon pushed a huge key into the ignition switch and turned 
it. A thunderous tap, however, prevented Brandon from commencing his 
journey. Completely unstartled — his reflexes had been worn during the past 



few days — he looked out his side window. Standing in the hot Savannah sun was 
detective Anthony Havard, his deep brown skin glossy with sweat, his mouth open 
in a wide grin. 

Morales reluctantly pressed a button; the window slid down and disap- 
peared. 

"You finally gone, Bee?" asked Havard in that stentorian now-I'm-going- 
to-tell-you-something voice of his. 

Morales saw where this was going — resistance was more than futile; it 
meant a prolonged lecture. "Yeah." 

"Good. I don't want to see you until tomorrow. You hear me? Don't be 
sneaking back down here tonight! Got it?" 

"Uh huh," Brandon replied, fingers spread on the file beside him, hoping 
Havard had not seen it. 

"I ain't kidding. I told Johnson to have his S.W.A.T. boys on special call 
just in case you feel drawn to that desk of yours. Go home and get some rest. On 
second thought, just go home and get some. You need it!" 

"Gotcha." Morales had received the same speech from his lieutenant ten 
minutes ago. 

"Alright now." He turned to walk away and paused. "And say hi to 
Olivia for me." 

"I will not." 

"Hey, if you don't I will." 

"Not with a fat lip, you won't." 

"I got a fat d— ?" 

Brandon slammed on the gas, screeching backwards, drowning Havard's 
voice out. He had managed a genuine laugh and waved thanks to his fellow 
detective, whom he knew would see the wave for what it was. 



A transitory feeling of satisfaction filled him, although he had not accom- 
plished anything more than leaving the station and its parking lot. He knew this 
had been a greater obstacle than it seemed. So he allowed himself the feeling, 
even if it did last for only a couple of blocks before fading, perturbation following 
in its wake. Morales had now joined Savannah's afternoon traffic, a fraternity/ 
sorority of sorts practicing equal opportunity enrollment. Black, white, young, 
old, female, male, there were no requirements to be a member of Sigma Savannah 
Rush-Hour, save one: you must not, by any means, be able to competently operate 
your vehicle. It seemed that if you knew yellow meant slow down and not speed 
up, or if you knew the left lane was for passing and not coasting, or if you knew 
the right-of-way . . . if you knew what "right-of-way" meant, then you were not — 
under any circumstances — allowed to drive on the streets of Savannah. Morales 
did not know the statistics for accidents, the only numbers he paid attention to 
were those that told his clearance rate, yet he guessed it was high, based on the 
hyperbolic sense he had of having driven past so many a scene of twisted metal. 

Case in point: Last summer a young graduate student attending a univer- 
sity an hour outside of Savannah had decided he wanted to meet his girlfriend for 
lunch off campus. He had jumped in his Jeep and driven along the university's 
main circle, probably hoping to see his girlfriend's blue eyes in a few minutes. He 
did, indeed, get to see those remarkable eyes, but he had had to wait for days 
instead. Why? Because another student had decided to drive along the circle at 
the same time, in the opposite direction, in his lane. After having flown through 
the front window of his Jeep and having landed on the front hood of a Jimmy, the 
student — whose girlfriend had been waiting at a nearby Ruby Tuesday's wonder- 
ing where the hell he was — came to a week later at East Georgia Medical Center. 
His first words? "What happened?" To which his girlfriend had replied, with not 
a single trace of conscious irony on her part, "Some lady from Savannah hit you." 
But the irony had not been lost on Brandon Morales, who was friends with the 



officer handling the case. "So what'd the lady say?" Morales had asked his friend 
over a beer one night. 

"This is the part that kills me," his friend had told him, setting up the 
punch line. "The lady looks me dead in the eye and says, 'I've been taking classes 
here for a while. But they're at night. This is the first time I've driven here during 
the day.'" 

Holding his frosted mug up, Morales had offered a toast. "Here's to 
Savannah drivers, and the body shops they keep in business." 

If the staggering amount of purely bad drivers perturbed him, then a 
revelation Morales had come to recently completely maddened him. Brandon 
Morales had been allowed into the fraternity. He was beginning to drive like 
them. Once he recognized what he referred to as "the symptoms," such as 
forgetting to use a turn signal and cutting someone off, he was absolutely furious. 
They had finally infected him, he half-jokingly told Olivia one day. He was aware 
that his lapses in traffic were emblematic of something larger and far more 
serious. He had been working too hard for far too long. He had to slow down and 
take at least a night off. Everyone in the squad knew it. Olivia knew it. And deep 
down inside he knew it. 

He looked at the folder next to him. His thoughts returned to work. 

Yellow. 

Red. 

Morales brought his truck to a halt. 

Somewhere around Victory and Lincoln it must have happened. He still 
could have realized what had occurred had he merely focused in front of him, only 
he was busy thinking about work at first; then he started thinking about Olivia, 
thinking about her lying on the sofa downstairs in the red teddy he had bought two 
Christmases ago. He was thinking about how it would feel to talk to her in the 
same room — not over miles of fiber optics or radio waves. He was thinking about 



how it would feel to touch her. It had been a week and a half, ten days. Olivia, 
he thought, without thinking her name. 

The traffic light turned green, and he waited as the dozen cars in front of 
him inched forward; a few actually made it across the intersection. Not surpris- 
ingly, the light turned red two cars before him. Taking the pickup out of gear and 
resting a foot on the brake pedal, his thoughts shifted from Olivia to Josephine, 
Josephine Wells. 

You need to stop, he told himself. Let it rest, at least until tomorrow. 
But, of course, he could not. He knew the new lie was just the old one. He could 
not put her aside that easily, not after all he had been through. No, after all she 
had been through. 

Ten days, he thought once more, consciously bringing Olivia to the 
foreground. Ten days since he had eaten dinner or lunch or even breakfast with 
her. There had been chances, opportunities, afforded the couple to share a meal 
within this time. He had not, however, capitalized on any of them. Not for lack of 
trying, though. It was just that ten days ago someone — statistics and experience 
pointed to a male — had seen fit to rape and pummel to death a mother of three on 
her own porch. The exact details of the crime were still unknown; they almost 
always remain so. The perpetrator had left little evidence, a somewhat perplexing 
fact given the attack's viciousness. Usually with a beating, the longer the attacker 
beats on his victim, the more apt he is to lose control and grow careless. Detec- 
tive Morales had had no luck with such proverbial police logic, however, and 
neither had Josephine Wells for that matter. 

The killer had left only two significant clues, hints, whatever one wishes 
to call them, with which to somehow catch him: a latex-based compound residue 
that told Morales he was looking for someone who possessed enough intellect to 
use a prophylactic and a partial indentation on what was left of Josephine Wells' 
right cheek that bore a slight resemblance to a class ring, again pointing to the 



possession of some amount of intellect on the killer's part. In short, he had 
nothing. For without more evidence or, God forbid, witnesses willing to talk, 
Savannah's thirty-first homicide that year (his eighth) would most likely not be 
cleared. Still, he had an obligation both to Josephine and to the citizens of this 
city to put down this case. That's what he had told himself from the beginning, 
standing on Josephine Wells' porch looking at her body on a dark humid August 
morning. He had an obligation. 

A honk. 

He looked around and noticed he was holding up traffic. The cars ahead 
had already driven past the green light while he sat motionless. He raised a hand 
at the Pathfinder behind him in an attempt to seek forgiveness. In return he 
received a single raised finger as he passed the yellow-going-on-red light, leaving 
the Pathfinder to halt its advance before it was underway. 

As he slowed down and came to a standstill again Morales turned the air 
conditioner on high. Cool air rushed out from the vents making his skin tingle 
with guilt. Two days ago he had had a chance to have lunch with Olivia. He also 
had an appointment to have his pickup's air conditioning repaired. Faced with the 
lady or the compressor he had chosen the former, but she, reminding him of the 
necessity of air conditioning during Savannah summers, told him to go ahead and 
take the truck to the shop. "You sure? I don't know when I'm gonna get another 
chance to see you, let alone have lunch." 

"I'm sure," she had said into the telephone. "I'm sure." 

That night, after visiting Josephine Wells' home for another look around in 
the hopes of finding something, anything that could lead to the identification of the 
killer, a frustrated Morales had arrived home with nothing new to work with. 
Throwing his keys in the crystal bowl atop the foyer table, Morales had slowly 
climbed the cream carpeted stairs. As he ascended a faint light had been visible 
from above. His mood lightened a bit, and he moved faster, taking off his jacket 



and tie by the time he entered the master bedroom. Two steps in he had stopped, 
a sigh deflating his body. With hunched shoulders he stood motionless, looking at 
his wife asleep in bed. Her long strands of yellow hair ran, it seemed, like slender 
rivers along the folds of the pillows, joining along her face. He could make out a 
single strand gliding in the air, moved rhythmically by his wife's breathing. Her 
eyelashes fluttered faintly, her lips trembled and mumbled something inscrutable — 
perhaps a prayer asking divine protection for her husband in his duty-bound 
absence or perhaps a curse exacting punishment for that same absence. Whatever 
its meaning, the thought of deciphering her utterance did not even occur to Mo- 
rales. He felt he had no right to know what she had said. He had forfeited that 
privilege a long time ago, journeying as he did into the lives of dead people days 
on end while ignoring the most important living person in his life. His gaze 
traveled down Olivia's left arm, stopping momentarily at the thin wrist, around 
which a gold watch hung loosely. Morales wondered how many times she had 
glanced at its hands with him on her mind. This train of thought led him to 
speculate the time she fell asleep. He recalled the formula medical examiners used 
to determine approximately the time of a victim's death and toyed with the idea of 
substituting this for that and that for this to come up with a formula to calculate 
the time that his wife's body had surrendered to exhaustion, no longer able to wait 
for him. 

The lamp was still on, so she had fallen asleep; she had not chosen to go 
to sleep. A wine glass, smudged with visible fingerprint patterns, sat on her oak 
nightstand, a small amount of red liquid creating a pool within it. A crease- veined 
paperback book lay by her hand like a tent put up in a desert of cotton sands. On 
the book's cover was a painting of a man holding a longhaired woman in his huge 
heroic arms. A sudden desire to put a bullet through that gorgeous schmuck's face 
came over Morales as he thought about all the other literary suitors who had been 
sharing his wife's bed in the warmth of his home. Brandon Morales, Savannah 



Police detective, saw no evidence of foul play, simply a woman relaxing in bed 
before drifting off to sleep. Brandon Morales, graduate of Stony Brook's bachelor 
program in English, saw a woman searching for the company she could not attain 
in reality in the pages of another world. Brandon Morales, husband and man, saw 
a missed chance, a crack in a seemingly stable home, a fissure he was not sure he 
could keep from widening. 

He had wanted to kiss Olivia. Instead, not wanting to wake her, he had 
kissed the air he hoped would find its way into her lungs. Then Morales had 
walked over to the burning lamp and turned it off. 

Green. 

This time Morales noticed the traffic light and pulled his truck forward. 
He reached what could be considered normal speed for about a half-mile until 
slowing back down to zero five cars behind a red light at Abercorn and sixty-third. 
He was approaching Derenne. Soon he would have to get over on the right lane to 
make his turn. He looked at the vehicle beside him, a blue Yukon. The driver, a 
heavy-set man with thick lenses in an equally thick set of frames, sat slouched, 
staring straight ahead. In front of the gas-greedy monster was a red Mustang with 
a group of teenage girls inside evidently singing, their arms and necks swaying en 
synch with the music Morales could hear from his truck. He tore his gaze away 
lest he be mesmerized, too. 

At least I didn't see her face, Morales said to himself, his thoughts 
traveling back two nights again. He had heard stories of detectives gripped by 
cases, sometimes seeing the faces of victims in place of the faces of loved ones or 
friends. One story in particular came to mind. A detective, somewhere in Mon- 
tana (Morales had forgotten the exact location), working the murder of a young 
girl whose limbs had been severed, had apparently been so overwhelmed that one 
night during dinner he had seen not his daughter across the table but the young 
dead girl. Shocked, he had dropped the saltshaker his daughter had asked for and 



had begun to weep fractiously. No one would have known about this had it not 
been for the essay his wife had written in a police journal after the detective 
committed suicide three days later. The case, Morales remembered, was still 
open. 

At least he saw Olivia's face; that much he was grateful for. At least he 
had not ... 

A pair of eyes caught his attention. The smile was next. 

For the first time, Morales noticed the car directly ahead of him. He was 
not wholly certain, but it seemed he must have been behind the white Lexus for 
quite a while. The Lexus' outside rearview mirror held the reflection of its 
driver's face. Morales saw a pretty woman looking at him with what appeared to 
be recognition. She smiled, crinkling the corners of her dark eyes, and suddenly 
she looked away. 

She recognized me, thought Morales. But who . . .? 

He froze. 

A name from some distant place emerged. No. It can't be. 

He looked at the woman's reflection in the outside mirror, then the inside 
mirror. He caught her glance again. This time he looked away. 

Same hair. 

Same eyes. 

Same smile. 

But . . . 

The light turned green. The Lexus drove forward. He did not know what 



to do. 



He put the truck in gear and accelerated. 
It's her, he thought. What's she doing here? 
But she doesn't drive a Lexus. 
You think she'd be driving that Civic forever? It's been nine ... ten years. 



I can run a check on her tag. Then I'd be sure. 

No. 

But she's supposed to be in New Orleans. What's she doing here? 

I must've looked like an idiot, staring at her, frozen, not smiling or waving 
.... And after everything . . . 

What the hell's she doing here? 

The right turn light on the Lexus began blinking. Morales looked at the 
approaching street: Derenne. The Lexus changed lanes. 

Should I catch up to her and flag her down? Get her to stop somewhere 
so we can ... so we can what? 

Morales changed lanes, cutting the red Mustang off. 

The Lexus turned onto Derenne. Morales followed. 

She's going the same way I'm going. Yeah, but for how long? 

As if in answer to his question, the Lexus' left turn signal flashed. Both 
vehicles changed lanes once more and came to a stop at a traffic light on Herriot. 

What are you doing, Brandon? 

I have to know if it's her. 

Why? 

Because if it is ... 

He made no motion to get her attention save to look at her rearview 
mirror. She did not look back. 

Morales thought about the letters and the single photograph he kept inside 
his pistol case at home. 

The turn signal continued flashing, a seemingly perpetual alternation 
between bright and dull yellows. 

Morales realized he was touching his wedding ring. He looked down at 
the wide band. "You need a nice big ring so all the hoochies can see you're taken 



from a mile away," Olivia had reasoned. She had recently had it polished, and the 
ring still maintained its burnish. Morales looked at the scratches along the ring. 

The ring, he thought. Goddamnit, the ring! 

He quickly pulled his cellular phone out of his jacket and dialed Havard's 
number. One ring. Two rings. A crackle. A voice. 

"Hello." 

"Josephine Wells." 

"Oh, hell. Come on, Bee, give it a rest." 

"Listen." 

An undisguised sigh. 

"Listen! What's the highest grade Josephine Wells reached?" 

"I can't say. She was a high school drop-out." 

"Yeah, at first. But didn't one of her sisters say she had gone back to 
school, taking evening classes without telling anyone? The sister knew only 
'cause she'd surprised Josephine studying." 

"I remember. So what? She never finished. Like I said, technically she's 
. . . she was a high school dropout. That's the tragedy." 

"No. I got a feeling Josephine finished. I think she struggled and 
struggled and finally she graduated. Only she didn't tell anyone about it. Maybe 
her kids would feel ashamed or something. None of them finished. I think she 
didn't want to seem like she was bragging." The light turned green. "I think she 
was proud, though. So proud she bought the biggest class ring she could afford. I 
think whoever killed her — " 

" — Took that ring," Havard finished. 

The Lexus pulled forward. 

"I'll make some calls tomorrow to the Board of Ed," Morales said, "find 
out where she was taking classes, when she graduated, what company she bought 
the ring from. It wouldn't hurt to try the pawn shops, too." 



"Tomorrow?" 

The Lexus turned left. 

"Yeah, tomorrow." 

Morales pressed the "end" button on his phone. The Wells' case was not 
put down. Not yet, he thought. But it's a start. 

He looked at the traffic lights in the distance. All green. Olivia would die 
laughing, he thought. "Why do I always have to catch every red light?" she often 
asked. Turning his left signal light off and shifting his truck into gear, he pressed 
his foot on the gas pedal and drove straight ahead. Brandon Morales was on his 
way home. 



Silence 

Jeanette Kehr 

Isa crouched behind the tall pine, as she watched Haley leave the house 
tugging at her dress and pressing the collar with her good hand. Last night their 
father had twisted the other because his supper had been late. Today Isa made 
sure his supper would be on time. 

The heat of the metal door scorched her knuckle when she knocked. No 
sound came from inside. The sun scalded her back and her feet fought the 
concrete beneath them. The beating of her heart prevailed over her small frame. 
Yellow orange hair fell in her face as she shifted the plate from her left hand to 
her right. Putrid green is her least favorite color and it covered the porch like a 
veil, stagnate. Its color only accentuated the odor of cigarettes and filth. 

She whispered into the burning metal. "Daddy." 

Her protective freckles dripped with sweat and she licked her dry lips. 
Tugging at the cream color cotton shift caused more sweat to drip down to her 
naked buttocks. 

"Daddy." 

Facing him is unbearable, like the heat. Quietly setting the tray on the 
wooden cart, which lay next to the spigot, she cupped the cool liquid and splashed 
her face. 



"Damnit, child! Turn off that water. I did not tell you you could have any 
of that, now did I?" He stepped out onto the porch and two strides reached out 
and twisted her arm. Spittle dripped as he spoke. "Turn it off! Now!" 

Rubbing her arm from his attack she feigned a smile. "Daddy, I brought 
your dinner — see Daddy — here — and it's on time." 

"Hmmm. .." Scratching his head he added. "Did you bring me a clean 
shirt and pants. You know I can't wash my own clothes on accounta my arthritis." 
Isa backed away as he grabbed the plate. 

"No, daddy. . ..Haley hasn't finished it. But, I'll bring it to you before 
sundown. I promise." She looked at the purple bruise forming on her arm and 
grimaced. "Daddy, please let me have some water. I'm thirsty. I promise I won't 
drink a lot. Just a little.... please." Her blue eyes fought against the sun. she 
noticed his silhouette was as hers, small. His freckles were hers also. Even his 
blue eyes were hers, but her sweat was his. 

"A runt like you ain't got no business drinking my water. Go on back to 
the river. There is plenty there for the taking." Looking into his cold blue eyes 
she could see she would get nothing from him. What he did want to give her, she 
didn't want. She turned to run and was caught by his long bony fingers. They 
wrapped around her stick like arm and yanked her to his smelly chest. His stale 
breath caught her neck. "You're next little one. Just wait and see." Then he let go 
and disappeared as fast as he appeared. 

Behind the metal door she heard him coughing. The spigot still running 
she decided not to risk him seeing her drink and turned it off. 

In her ten years she had never spent more than six months in one home. 
They hopped from house to house, sometimes only twenty minutes from the last 
and sometimes longer. It depended. If her father could find a vacant place they 
settled. The last place in Laurelton, she even got to go to school. It seemed that 
her and Minnie Frye were just becoming chummy when he packed their belongings 



and carried them off again. This time they crossed the state line into Alabama. 
Swamps took over. Misquitoes were plentiful and clean water scarce. It took 
them five days to find this little shack. It looked like no one had been here in a 
long time, so they settled. 

Why would anyone put a metal door on a house in this heat, Isa thought 
to herself. She had to hurry if she was going to get his clothes to him before 
sundown. The further she walked away from the dingy old shack, the more she 
felt like she was being watched. She cut her eyes back to the shack and saw the 
curtains shift just a bit. 

As she slid down a bumpy hill to reach the small cove, Haley was wring- 
ing out the last of the clothes. 

Into the murky water she went. 

"Isa!" 

the tightness of her skin cooled as she bounced into the water. Silhouetted 
against the sun, Haley draped a dingy white T-shirt over a dead tree limb. Isa 
loved to watch her. Haley was different. Her dark hair and eyes reminded her of 
her mother. A twinge of jealousy caught itself in her throat as she held her breath 
and went under. 

Where was her mother? Isa asked herself that question every day. The 
last time she saw her was a year ago. They had all lived in Texas, in a nice house 
with two bedrooms. For Isa it seemed to be perfect. One day her father came 
home from work and said they had to pack. "Your mama is dead. She had an 
accident." The shock of this news devastated Isa. Her father never mentioned 
their mother again. 

Under the water there was no sound. Only a vacuum. A fish touched her 
face. It wiggled in and out of her toes as her dress flowed around her like a 
blanket. The quiet underworld had no audible sound, yet she heard everything. 



The bubbles from her nose tickled. The beat of her heart rhythmically sang as her 
hair flowed protectively around her. A tap on her shoulder brought her back. 

"Isa...Isa.... answer me..." 

Up and out Isa popped out of the water like a perch baited by a hook. 

"I'm here." She shielded her eyes from the sun to get a better look at 
Haley. At sixteen she looked old. Her shoulders slumped with an invisible weight. 

"Come on Haley. . .get in. . . ' She giggled pulling Haley into the water. 

"Isa! I can't. I have to. ..." Her face went under water. They stared at 
each other as their hair floated to the top. Isa smiled. Haley pushed her feet and 
shot out of the water spitting and choking. 

"Isa. You know I hate to get under the water. It's too quiet and besides 
it's dirty." 

"Hey, you! Get me my clothes. Now!" He held up his arm and shook his 
fist. 

"See, Isa... you got me in trouble. Now he's mad." She grabbed his sun- 
dried clothes and quickly walked away. She slipped and fell calling out to him. 
"I'm coming. Papa." 

Why didn't she call him daddy like me, thought Isa. At the top of the hill 
Haley handed him the clothes. Isa watched as Haley was pulled away from sight. 
The sun burned her retinas and her face felt flush. The water suddenly became 
smelly. She felt the hot breath of the fish rise around her leg. Her feet sunk into 
the muddy bottom as a twig wrapped around her fiery red hair. As her face 
entered the water her scream was muffled. She wasn't sure if it was her voice she 
heard or Haley's. 

Her eyes opened and she heard nothing. Under the water the sounds were 
quiet. She wanted to stay forever. The beat of her heart was steady, and her hand 
pulled the twig out from her hair. She thought about how fragile Haley was and 
how much she looked like her mother. 



As she lay on the small grassy shore, she heard the screams. They 
reverberated throughout her body causing her to shudder. Sitting up straight she 
picked up the tree branch where his clothes had hung. As she walked up the hill, 
she thought about the water. Soundless. Motionless. 



Waste Nothing 

Jeanette Kehr 

Earlier this morning I had yelled at Granny, not because she's hard of 
hearing; she just doesn't want to listen. "It's not gonna rain, Granny! Don't 
waste your time on these dead things." What did I know, after all, I'm only ten. 
Before dawn, she woke me up barking out orders. I was to fill bucket after bucket 
of water for the dried up brown corn stalks in her makeshift garden behind our 
house. "Hush, child! That is your life you are giving up on. Go on now — water 
before they curl up the rest of the way and die. We got to save the corn." With 
sore hands curled around my lukewarm glass of milk I gulped and ran. 

It was too unbearable to water when the sun came up, so me and Granny 
sat together at the bare wooden table eating crusty day old biscuits and scrambled 
eggs. There was no butter, but plenty of jam. She put her red cracked hands 
together to pray to the Lord up above. I don't have to wonder what she's praying 
about. Rain. With her lips pressed against her hands she spoke quietly, like a 
book. The only other time she spoke was when barking orders, as if I were a 
child. Even though she was outside working alongside me, sweating like me, I 
was always surprised at the fact she always smelled like mint. 

"Momma's not comin' back and it's not gonna rain!" My fork hit the 
daisy pattern of my plate sending a chip into my glass of milk. Her steel blue eyes 
stared at me in disgust. "Stop looking at me like that! I'm tellin' the truth and 



you know it." I wasn't sure if the pain in my stomach was from hunger or her 
eyes. 

Trickles of sweat spilled onto her grease laden plate as she continued to 
bow her head. When she finished her eyes softened and she passed me the salt. 
"No Granny! I don't want salt. I want...." She pushed the salt closer, but I 
grabbed the pepper instead and pounded the bottom of the shaker. 

The raspy breathing of Angel Baby in the next room echoed in my head. 
The kitchen windows were open, inviting the hot sticky air to meet with the 
smoldering grease head on. Because I had to squint I barely saw Granny arch her 
back to retrieve the last drop of tea from her huge glass. The lemon wedge was 
stuck at the bottom, so she put her dirty hand inside to grab it. Her lips curled 
around the lemon wedge and her eyes became milky. 

I stared at the yellow soupy eggs swimming on my cracked plate and my 
stomach growled. "I do wish it would rain, Granny." 

As she crunched on her last piece of ice she spoke calmly. "No waste!" 

Boy, how many times have I heard that one? Even my bath water is 
sparse. An inch of water was barely enough to wash my feet, yet she spared 
nothing for the garden. I wanted to wash my hair and my dress. 

Angel Baby's crying reminded me why everything was so sparse. I 
popped out of my chair and went into her room. The pink walls were fading 
compared to her flaming cheeks. Her frail little hands grabbed my dress as I 
cuddled her. With closed eyes, I nuzzled my face into her black curly hair. "It's 
all right, Angel Baby. Stop that cryin'...Mattie's here for you." 

Mama left us a year ago. When Angel Baby came out sick, she split. 
"Your mama is not strong like you, Mattie." Granny would always say. Every 
now and then money would arrive in the mail, but it was not enough. 



Angel Baby wrapped her arms around me and coughed. Her sweet baby 
powder smell entered my nose and seeped through my skin as I held her. "Granny, 
it's time for her medicine!" 

Lately we've been giving her half doses. Her teeth gritted the spoon, but 
the medicine passed through her tiny cracked lips. Yesterday Granny had said the 
doctor would come. We waited, but he never did. 

Even in a cool tub of water, Angel Baby's flesh felt hot and dry. I cradled 
her head as she lay in the tub screaming. In the corner of her room rattled a small 
metal fan. It didn't do much good. Only mixed up the steaming hot air with my 
sticky sweat. Angel Baby cried until I took her out of the water. Wrapping her in 
a clean white towel, I held her close. She laid her head on my shoulder and slept. 

I felt a stabbing pain in my back as I stood at the kitchen doorway watch- 
ing Granny wash the breakfast dishes. My cracked plate was still on the table. 
Waste not, I thought to myself as I handed it to her. 

As I sit next to Angel Baby's crib holding her, the curtains flutter. A cool 
breeze billows into the room as the clouds get darker. "Granny, look! It's gonna 
rain. Come here and see." 

As she stood next to me, her alabaster hand touched my shoulder. Angel 
Baby's head languished in the crook of my neck. Her breathing is raspy and her 
cheeks are still warm. Slowly it drizzled outside. The corn drank. I reached 
outside the window and let the droplets fill my hand. I wet her cheek and lick my 
hand tasting her salty skin. Lightning fills the room and I wondered where mama 
is. Is she standing somewhere watching the same rainstorm? Secretly, I hoped she 
wasn't. It didn't belong to her. 



I Should 

Stephanie McCord 

The smell of her perfume, Pleasures, sticks to the yellow wallpaper. The 
sweet aroma overpowers the fresh red roses sitting on the nightstand. The bathroom 
light casts a shadow across the hallway wall that leaks into the bedroom. The foot- 
prints embedded into the blue carpet are fresh. I can smell her body on the bed- 
spread and on the sheets; strands of her brown hair speckle the pillow. She's stand- 
ing in the corner next to the lavender chair. I watch her. She grabs her pink t-shirt 
off the chair and puts it on — head first, then each arm. She then picks her jeans up 
off the floor; sits on the bed, and slicks each well-shaven leg into the leg holes. The 
white Nikes come next. Vicki walks to the mirror and straightens her hair, then dabs 
perfume behind each ear. 

I don't know why she does that. It doesn't hide the smell of sex. But I guess 
it really doesn't matter. It will be 1 0:30 at night by the time she reaches David's bed, 
David's home, their kids. It will be 10:45 at night before she puts her wedding band 
back on. 

I watch her walk out of the room. I see her shadow shrink down the hallway. 
The front door is being unlocked. The metals clank against each other. The door 
opens, and squeaks with every centimeter of movement. There are footsteps, just a 
few. The door closes quickly. There's no squeaking this time. I hear the metal again — 



metal inserting into metal. The door is being locked. 1 should get up and put the chain 
on. I'm tired. 

It's 7 o'clock, and time to get up and get dressed. I need to go clothes 
shopping for winter. Winter is good. 1 can hide my fat and body freckles under layers 
of sweaters and long Johns and long skirts. Unfortunately, I can't hide the freckles on 
my face — make-up doesn't cover everything. Hum. In my last check up, the doctor 
says I'm perfect for my height. I know he's lying — he's just trying to avoid telling 
me the truth. Women shouldn't be 5' 11" and 140 pounds. We should be petite and 
thin like my mother is. 

I need a shower first. I have to get that smell off my body — out of my hair. 
The shower always takes so long. I should really cut my hair at least to my shoul- 
ders. I can hear my mother now: my hair is my best feature. It hides my body. Vicki 
likes my hair. She likes the way it lies on the small of my back. She says it has 
endless motion. The blond and red strands go on forever. She enjoys the softness of 
it against her breast. I keep telling her I'm going to cut it, but each time she talks me 
out of it. I really should cut it. 

The drive to the school is the same; out of the driveway in my safe burgundy 
Saturn, and down the road three blocks to the school. I pass the same brick homes, 
and the same fenced-in yards. And the same happy couples kissing each other good- 
bye for the day. It's a safe school, no drugs, no violence, no bullies. A nice safe 
school. We start promptly at 8:30. 

I have one child who gives me a little trouble — Brian. He has a hard time 
focusing. He's not mean or hyper. He's just active. Most third grade boys are active. 
I sometimes find myself staring at Brain. He has the same soft blue eyes and blond 
hair I had as a child. I wish he was mine, but he's not. He's Vicki's. He likes to tie 
and untie his shoes again and again. It's part of his compulsive behavior. When I tell 



him to stop he always says the same thing to me, "Ms. Jones, don't you like the way 
I tie my shoes? I'm the best in the class." 

Sometimes I feel I'm not objective enough with Brian. I love all my chil- 
dren — each one is special. I spend a lot of extra time with Brian. He would probably 
do better in a special education class. There are only 10 kids in that class. There 
wouldn't be so many distractions for him. Maybe I'll ask Vicki to start dressing 
Brian in sandals. I should probably do something about the shoe situation before it 
leads to something more serious. I do love all my kids. 

12:15 comes, and all the kids line up for lunch. The children follow the 
yellow tape on the floor that leads to the lunchroom. We pass paintings, done by 
other children, along the way. The walls are so white everything against them is 
magnified. The lunchroom smell is the same five days a week. It smells like nachos. 
Why nachos I don't know, but it's nachos. It doesn't matter what the ladies cook; it 
always smells the same. I sit the children at our designated table, and then I go to the 
teacher's lounge to eat. 

The odor of coffee and cigarettes smacks me in the face as soon as I open the 
door. This place is the safe shelter for teachers. Sarah Miller complains about her 
husband. Richard Asher wants to take some time off to visit his grandchildren. I sit 
on the green vinyl sofa gazing at the new playground equipment. I hope to God none 
of my children get hurt on it. It's 12:30. I'm sure Vicki is feeding the baby right now. 
Afterwards she'll call David, and ask him what he wants for dinner. She constantly 
makes him his favorite. I'll go home at 3:30 and pop in a Lean Cuisine. I have got to 
start eating more fruits and vegetables. I really should eat better. 

Dinner is eaten, the fish are fed, and the cat is playing with her new ball. 5 
o'clock wears on my eyes. I have to stop grading papers so I can feel my fingers 
again. The numbness is an overwhelming feeling when you're tired. I try to be fair, 
but it's hard when I'm tired. I always grade Brian's test last. I'm too tired by that 



time to be picky. I never use red. My first spelling test was in second grade. There 
was so much red I threw it away at a friend's house. I never want any of my children 
to feel like they've failed. They have plenty of time to feel like hopeless entities. 

Vicki won't be over until 9:00 o'clock. I'll spend my night cleaning the one 
fork I used for dinner, picking out the dress I'll wear tomorrow for school, and 
vacuuming around the litter box. I'll talk to my mother. The conversation is always 
the same. It starts at 7:00 p.m. and lasts until 7:30 p.m. Within that thirty minutes 
she'll ask me about school, and I'll say it's fine. She'll then ask me if I've been 
dating, and I'll say no, I'm too busy with school. This takes exactly thirty minutes; 
by the end of the week that is almost two hours of relaying robotic answers. 

At 8:00 o'clock Vicki will call. When her husband yells who's on the the 
phone, she will tell him she's talking to Brian's teacher. Her excuse will be, "He had 
a bad day." The conversation will be over in eight minutes. It will be long enough for 
her to tell me what time she's coming over tonight and not to worry, because she told 
David she was coming over to discuss next month's PTA meeting. It's always the 
same time each month — 9:00 o'clock. I should tell her not to come. I should tell her 
to quit stringing me along, but I don't. 

I need a break from this. 

It's 9:00 o'clock, and Vicki steps out of her Windstar. I often think how that 
car doesn't fit her. She should drive a Camry — a green Camry. That's her. David 
picked out the Windstar. David picked out their house. Vicki lets him make all the 
decisions. She lets him control everything. I want some power. I should be equal in 
this relationship, but I'm not. I should count in her life. I think I should. 

I guess I'm lucky this month — twice in a month, back-to-back days. That 
cold has worn David down. He is so doped up on cold medication; he doesn't notice 
the empty space next to him. 

She comes in the house. The smell of Pleasures radiates around her. The 
sweet aroma brings images of flowers floating around her — blue, green, and purple. 



They fall lightly into her hair and around her tiny feet. A closer inspection reveals 
the smell of Bounce. That's what she was doing today. The baby vomit did not come 
out of her shirt. Her pink blouse stained with baby vomit — that's ok. I have some 
Spray-n-Wash that will get it out. She should let David do more of the housework 
and child rearing. They are his sons. I think I'll say something tonight to her about 
that. I worry too much about her kids. 

I should become a foster parent. That extra bedroom is going to waste. 
Brian and the baby would love that room. The room is all boy. The large window 
invites the sun to dance with the Disney characters on the wall. There they are — 
Mickey, Pluto and Donald Duck. I love the light blue paint that covers the walls — 
and the ceiling fan. What little boy wouldn't want an airplane shaped ceiling fan? 
The room might be a little young for Brian, but it was perfect for him when I painted 
it two years ago. I should really go and fill out paper work for the foster program. 
Maybe I'll redecorate the room into something an eight-year-old would like. 

Vicki looks around. Her brown eyes examine the living room. I have changed 
nothing since last night. She proceeds to the bedroom. I turn off the light in the 
kitchen, the living room, then the hallway. I leave on the bathroom light. I always 
leave on the bathroom light. The bedroom clock reads 9: 10. It will take another five 
minutes for her to take her clothes off. Vicki throws her jeans and blouse in the 
corner next to the chair. She's not very neat. 

I've been to her house. It is constantly clean. Each month for dinner — the 
same day, same time, same meal. The smell of pot roast fills the air. The combination 
of heat from the oven and roast makes the air warm, almost humid, in the house. 
Everything has a place and everyplace has an object — objects collected over fifteen 
years of marriage. There's even a ship in the bottle collection in David's private 
study and Vicki 's doll collection in the extra bedroom upstairs. 

Vicki likes to take me to that extra bedroom when I'm over under the pre- 
tense of showing me her new edition. The kiss she steals feels different from the ones 






in my bedroom. I can't explain it, but I don't feel hidden away when I'm in that 
room. And for those ten minutes I'm with her in her home with her kids in one of her 
rooms. It feels like I belong somewhere for those ten minutes. At my home. . .. I have 
nothing to show from our two years of confinement. 

At dinner I sit there across from Vicki, Brian on my left, the baby in the high 
chair to my right. David is at the head of the table. David cuts the pot roast, and 
Vicki serves all of us. It's the same conversation each month. How can we raise 
money for the school? Do we need more books for the library? David is so nice to 
me, so unaware. He's not a mean man — just a traditionalist. I want to tell him. I want 
to tell him everything not to hurt him, not to hurt the children, but to get her attention. 
I want her to make a choice. 

Last month's dinner was different. The conversation was the same, but I 
said something I had never said before — something about my prison. Vicki was 
having trouble breathing and left the dining room to look for her inhaler. Her thin 
frame would not receive the air it needed to survive. Gasping for air she yelled, "I 
can't find my inhaler." I left the dining room and walked into the living room. "You 
left it in the bed last night. I have it in my purse — just hold on." 

I turned around and there in the doorway was David. I saw his eyes. They 
were gray, and the white was no longer white but red. I headed straight for my purse 
that sat on the chair in the hallway. There were so many thoughts that were going 
through my head as I shuffled through my purse. He now knows. This was the day. 
Thank-God, everybody was going to know. I was free. Finally, I was free! 
I walked back in and Vicki was sitting on the couch. David was standing over her. I 
handed it to her. She would tell him now. She had to. I looked at the clock it was 
6:25. Give her eight minutes. Yes, in eight minutes she would breathe the truth. She 
can't lie — he knows. I could see it in his eyes. He won't even sit next to her. He just 



stood over her — hands on hips and knees straight. 

I went back into the dining room and sat back down with the kids. I had to 
give her her space. She needed to tell David alone. It would be easier that way. 6:40 
and they were still in the living room. They reappeared at 6:45. David was smiling 
and the redness from Vicki's cheeks was gone. Vicki looked over at Brian. "Mommy's 
ok." And Brian smiled back. 

David sat back down — shoved a spoonful of mashed potatoes in his mouth 
and looked at me. "You know, if you wanted book shelves put in your bedroom I 
would have done it. You didn't have to worry that I would have told anyone what's in 
the bedroom of the teacher of the year." He laughed then cocked his head towards 
Vicki. 

Vicki refused to look me in the eye. She just stood over the baby fidgeting 
with the high chair. "Brian, take the baby up stairs for mommy and play with him 
for a while." I just sat there confused. I could not have heard him right. There 
was no way. What book shelves? What shelves? I didn't have any shelves. Brian 
brushed passed me with the baby. I didn't feel the pieces of food falling out of the 
baby's hand onto my shoulder. Brian glanced over his shoulder and said, "Good 
bye, Ms. Jones, if I don't see you before you leave." I heard Brian, but I couldn't 
answer him. I was frozen. She lied to him. She lied to David, and he believed her. 
Vicki wouldn't look at me. She busied herself cleaning the high chair off. Then 
with a shot of cold breath that sliced the humidity, "Well it did sound a little odd. 
Don't you think? You come running into the room yelling — 'You left your inhaler 
in my bed.'" 

David took a drink and then smirked, "You won't believe the things that 
were going on in my head when you said that. I must have looked hilarious. I hope 
you don't phrase things like that in class. You know Brian will pick that up." 

I looked at David sitting there in his brown turtleneck and matching 



brown slacks with mashed potatoes on the left corner of his bottom lip. I hated her 
at that moment — the type of hate 1 had never felt before. The kind that numbs you 
to the point that nothing matters any more. You don't want to hurt anybody, but 
not because you wouldn't, but because you can't. You're powerless to change 
people. People don't care enough about you to notice you're in pain. I felt that 
pain at that moment. I wasn't going to change Vicki, but I was going to let David 
know the truth. 

I was going to let him know just to change my prison sentence. I looked at 
the clock hanging behind David. Then back at him. I opened my mouth. The 
words were ready. I was ready for it to end. I needed it to end. But what I heard 
was me — my words, my voice, my humility. "David," I said, and motioned with 
my napkin to wipe his mouth. And then I heard "Oh, it's the farm boy in me," he 
said, as he wiped his mouth and smiled at me. Those perfect white teeth. I had 
always liked his smile, but at that moment. He resembled the snake — the devil 
himself. 

One word was the only thing I could get out. My whole body had refused 
to work. I excused myself from the table, and by 7:30 I was at my house with my 
rooms and my dolls and my phantom book shelves. 

I don't remember putting my keys in the car door or starting the car or 
pulling out of the driveway or driving down the dark street. I don't remember 
pulling into my driveway or getting out of the car or going inside and turning on 
all the lights. A fifteen-minute car ride, and I remember nothing. But, I do remem- 
ber locking the front door and sleeping with the lights on. I had to have every light 
on — it was safer that night. 

I should have done more that night. 

I watch Vicki pull down the covers and climb into bed. It's 9: 1 5. I don't 
know why I keep replaying the dinner in my head. My chance to tell David is 



gone. It's too late for everything. I stand there in the doorway. I can't bring 
myself to lie next to her. She's going to hurt me. She does every month. I should 
tell her to go. Why can't I tell her to go? Why can't I get her out of my mind, my 
body, my heart? Why do I put myself through this? Vicki glares at me, "Come on. 
I have to leave early tonight." 

I look down at my feet. They are moving by themselves. I can't stop 
them. I can't grab the doorknob or the dresser. I can't stop. Nothing is registering 
in my head. My knees hit the bed, and I fall onto the bed and across Vicki. My 
head falls onto her chest. My chest covers her rib cage. My feet dangle off the 
bed. It doesn't feel like it once did. I don't tingle by her touch or by her words. 
Something is gone, and I'm lost on how to get it back. She touches my hair with 
her right hand. Then works her way down my body until she reaches my left thigh 
and pulls it across her thigh forcing my feet onto the bed. At 9:25 the touching 
begins. 



Pink at Night 
Michael E Roduin Sr. 

Ed watched from vulture's row, high above the flight deck, as the aircraft 
appeared on the horizon. From his elevated position he could see the action on 
the flight deck as sailors scrambled into position. The purple shirts, known to the 
crew as grapes, stood by their fuel pumps in the catwalks off the sides of the deck 
and the red shirts donned their safety gear while manning their vehicles in the rear 
of the superstructure. The yellow and green shirts moved equipment quickly 
about the deck, scurrying to avoid an ass chewing from the blues who oversaw it 
all. It was a normal day on board the USS Kitty Hawk. 

Petty Officer Edward Munter looked again at the letter crumpled in his 
hands. The small pink envelope with the red ink looked out of place in the 
landscape of steel and aircraft, painted in muted shades of gray, that made up 
Ed's view. What c&e Aetf teppened? Ed wondered. 

He watched the jet, now with a blinking light, approaching from the stern 
of the ship. Contemplating, he looked up through the Air Boss's window. No 
surprise there, the Boss was chewing some new guy a fresh asshole or two. It 
was his job, he knew it, he did it, and he was good at it. 

Ed looked the other way in through the back door of the bridge. There 
was a plethora of low ranking officers running around. Tier need a sz#n <Mt says 



no running with scissors, Ed thought to himself, laughing at his wittiness. The 
Captain was posted in his chair, looking straight out ahead of the carrier. No 
jokes about him; you just don't do that. Some guys don't understand that when 
they first get to the ship. "It's like the quarterback," Ed would tell them. "You 
don't tackle him in practice 'cause your gonna need him in the game. If you hurt 
him then all the training and practice in the world can't save you." 

Ed put the letter in his pocket and looked back to the approaching aircraft. 
The sun was setting to the port side. He loved to come up here in the evening and 
watch the planes land. Standing high above the powerful aircraft he could watch 
the pilots slam onto the deck with a practiced mechanical grace. For a few 
minutes at least he could pretend he was controlling them. 

This is where he brought his new sailors on their first day at sea. He 
would bring them out, and looking down upon the hundred or so aircraft being 
guided by a thousand or so crew members, he would tell them, "God I love my 
job." They would just stand there and stare at the display of power that went on 
beneath them. It impressed the hell out of them, and he knew it. 

Ed stared out above the commotion on the deck, and out beyond the other 
ships of the fleet, out past the horizon, and out of the atmosphere. He pulled the 
letter from his pocket again. Pink at nigrht, sailors deh&ht, he thought. 

He read the post-script again: 

P.O. £J t Kike* uou g&t a ciayice l aie need U tact. 

The rest of the letter had been pretty general. . . .Mom's fine, Daddy says 
your doing a good thing. . .classes are good. . .my friends and I are going to the 
beach tomorrow. What the hell did it mean? /came an this way to fi#ht this tbc&in# 
war for you, and now you send me a pink letter Damnitt- 

As the sky began to darken Ed could clearly see that the plane had become 
an F-14 Tomcat on final approach. The IMC clicked on: "Flight quarters, flight 



quarters, all hands man emergency stations. We have a disabled aircraft coming 
in." 

Looking across the stern, Ed saw the fuel dump from the aircraft's tanks. 
It was now or never. If he couldn't stick this landing, he would crash into the sea 
and then he would be at the mercy of Neptune himself. 

The red letters on the envelope seemed to stand out, as if in bold print: 

uectrician's Mate Second Ciass cJu/ard Mutter 
tit&'iteeri'itii/E-d/V Mo6 rCittu, Hauii, Cv-63 

Ff>o-Af> 98007 

Ed imagined her writing it out late at night in her dorm room. She was writing to 
the light of a flashlight, not wanting to wake her sleeping roommate. 

Does she know what an electrician's mate is? He wondered, Does she know I 
am an electrician, or does site think I am some kind of helper? Does she know that I 
work on live circuits that puise fifty thousand volts at four hundred hertz through their 

electrical veinsl Ed remembered the last letter he had written; he never talked about 
his job, only about her. 

More men and women scrambled about the deck. Emergency trucks with 
hoses and other fire fighting equipment pulled around the super structure loaded 
with men in silver fire fighting suits. The alarm sounded and everyone moved to 
their spot. Ed thought it looked like well rehearsed chaos. He had no job during 
flight quarters and he felt useless to help. He squeezed the letter in his hand, 
closed his eyes, and prayed for the pilot, his RIO, and the deck crew. It was the 
same prayer he had said when the World Trade Center Collapsed, the same prayer 
he said when the war started, and the same prayer he said when the ship set to sea: 
Dear god, please save those you see fit to save, and watch over those you do not. 

Opening his eyes, he hoped his view would be different, just for a mo- 



ment. He hoped that this was all over, the plane, the voyage, and the war. He 
hoped that he would be home with Becky. He hoped that everything would be the 
same as it was before September 1 1'\ 2001. 

ROOOOOBAHHHH! The crash alarm sounded and dashed his hopes. 

He looked at the letter again; it was signed Love, Becky. Did she really 
still love him, or was she going to dump him as soon as he got back from this 
shitty war. "I just wanted to let you come home first, I was worried for you," he 
imagined her saying. He looked at his image of her in his head. She must really 

hate me, he thought. She is wearing that iow cut blouse I like so much. . .probably to rub 
it in. 

The Tomcat was in clear view now, and Ed could see that the port side 
landing gear had not come down. It could be worse. Ed saw a plane land once 
that didn't have a tail hook to catch the wires on the deck. He overshot the deck 
and crashed into the ocean. All they ever found was an arm after his body went 

through the Screws. <Zo down without a tail hook, and you're Just shit out of luck, he 

thought. 

Ed's radio beeped. "'Ed, you need to get down there and inspect the 
generator your boys installed," came Ensign Bayone's voice. Bayone was the 
Division officer. Ed waited before answering. 

"I'm a little busy right now sir." Stupid iucker, what the hell do you think 
you are in charge of? Dumb ass green officers come in here fresh from £!OTC thinking 
they can Just run things. Respect has to be earned. Ed thought of their last division 

officer. "An officer can get more done in less time," he used to say. He had 
ordered two men to work on a live circuit during heavy seas. While they were 
working, the ship took a hard roll and the men were thrown into the jumble of 

wires. It killed them instantly. An officer can put more men in Davy Jones' iocker in 
less time. 



"I want it done, Ed." 

"I have an idea for you, sir: want in one hand, and shit in the other. See 
which one fills up first." 

"You're talking to an officer..." 

"Fire me, sir." Ass foie. He turned his radio from the electrician's channel 
to the general ship's station. 

The letter burned in Ed's hand, and his mind. He remembered the night 
before he went to sea. Beck had never been with a man before that night, and Ed 
had been careful not to scare her. At first he was worried that her father might 
find out, until he took Ed aside. "I know what is going on in that head of yours, 
son." Ed looked at him. There was little comfort in his eyes. Looking past her 
father's stoic expression, Ed saw a man with emotions flailing about in his eyes. 
He did not, however, appear angry. "Becky's older sister Sarah was conceived in 
the back of a '57 Chevrolet the night before I left for Vietnam." Becky's father 
looked past Ed to the rust riddled Dodge Dart that Ed had driven up in. "Here is 
some money Ed. Take care of her." 

At first Ed didn't want to take the money, he felt ashamed, but her father 
forced it into his hand. Ed nodded uncomfortably, still not sure what to say. 

"Fair winds and following seas, son. Be careful over there," her father 
had told him. "I have lost a lot of friends to war. Don't make me put your name 
on that list." 

Ed paused, tripping over the word friend. "Yes sir." 

He and Becky had gone to dinner at La Mesa, and then walked on the 
beach and watched the sun as it set. He remembered Becky's bare feet in the sand 
as the water would come in, run over them, and then recede again. She was 
wearing a beautiful long red dress. With him in his uniform, they appeared as 
though they might be going to the opera. Ed had never been so in love with 



anyone. "I'm going to come back and marry you," he had told her. fdzot. 

The plane was coming closer and closer. Ed changed his radio to the 
aviation channel, "Roger Boss, I have the ball." 

They made love twice that night, and she cried herself to sleep. The next 
morning she told him she didn't want him to go, "You never know what can 
happen, Ed. You might fall in love with someone else. I've heard about those 
skanky Navy girls. A man in every division." 

"It's not like that," he told her. It was, but he didn't want her to worry. 
Some of his friends had reached into the ships pool of women for their love affairs 
and had been rewarded with the ships pool of STD's for their labors. "Those girls 
just aren't for me Beck. You are." 

She looked at him reassured. As her eyes teared up she looked away. 
"What if you die over there?" 

"I'm not going to die. I am going over there on the most powerful ship in 
the US fleet. The ship is tried and proven in war. I will be fine, and I will come 
home to you." 

She looked in his eyes and they made love again. 

Plumes of smoke poured from the aircraft as the pilot, burning the rest of 
his fuel, turned on the after burners. The sudden burst of flames propelled him 
faster and faster toward the deck. 

When Becky had dropped him off, he was late, and the goodbye was 
short. "Hello Becky, how are you?" were the Senior Chief's cordial words. He 
didn't wait for an answer. "You're fifteen fucking minutes late, Ed. What the hell 
do you think this is, some kind of party? Would you like an umbrella in your 
drink?" He always gave Ed, his best electrician, a hard time. 

They were good friends. They had all sat together, Ed, Becky, the Senior 
Chief, and his wife at the ship's party. He and Ed worked out together twice a 



week in the gym, although Ed was quite a bit smaller than the six foot four, well 
over two hundred pound Senior Chief Becky and the Senior Chief's wife were on 
the ships party committee together. Ed didn't listen to too many people, but he 
always listened to the Senior Chief. 

"Actually, Senior, I..." 

"Get your ass on my ship," he shouted, "un-fucking believable." Ed 
stabbed at Becky's lips with his own while the Senior Chief pulled him from 
behind. "Kiss her when you get back." He wadded Ed's dungaree shirt in his fist. 
"Let's go. You have the first watch." 

"Take care of him for me Senior Chief." 

"Don't worry ma'am. He is the best electrician we have, maybe the best 
in the Navy. We need this one." 

Now she's probably got some new guy at that school of hers, probably an English 

professor. Tney always sleep with younger women. Ed imagined her on the campus of 
the university laughing with her friends, eating good food, and wearing that low 

CUt blouse. Damn {miss her. 

Flames ripped the sky behind the aircraft as it got closer. Fifty feet, forty, 
thirty, ten. Ed forced himself against the wall to brace for an impact. He saw 
Becky in the clouds before him, telling him to be careful. "Fuck off, bitch," he 
shouted out at the sea. As if in reply, her image vanished into the other clouds. 

The fighter slammed against the deck and bounced back into the sky. 
Neptune was rolling the seas below the ship, and the F-14 had hit too hard. Ed 
put the pink letter over his face, afraid of what might come next. 

He heard the engine wind down and pulled the letter from his face. The 
plane was safe on the deck, leaning to the port side where the wheel had not come 
down. 

All was quiet, and Ed collapsed on the small walkway. 

The door to the bridge opened. It was the Senior Chief. Ed wiped the 



tears from his face. 

"What's up, Senior?" 

He looked out across the black ocean, waiting for the moonrise, "The 
Ensign tells me you told him to shit in his hand." 

"He was telling me what to do again." 

"I'll have to talk to him about that." 

They looked at each other and laughed. "So did you come all the way up 
here to yell at me about that?" 

"Ed, you know I don't care if you put some newbie Ensign in his place." 

"What is it then?" 

"I got a letter from Becky." He pulled it from his pocket. It was on the 
same pink paper, but the ink was black. 

"That bitch, what the hell did she say," Ed tried to put in a stern face for 
the Senior Chief. "She's fucking some professor at the school there isn't she? Is 
he an English professor? I fucking hate English." 

"Too much time at sea can make you crazy, Ed. I think they say the same 
about love. Maybe you add those two things together and you have a real prob- 
lem. Maybe a letter from home, mixed with homesickness, could drive a sailor 
mad with misplaced anger. All those things together might drive even the best of 
sailors a bit crazy." 

"What did she say?" He looked out as the moon was beginning to come 
into view. Its elongated reflection left an orange-yellow stripe on the sea from the 
horizon where it swam to the ship's bow. 

"She sent me this letter; she was worried you might overreact. I think she 
might be right." 

"Overreact? What the hell does she expect? Every mail plane that lands 
on this ship is half full of Dear John letters. Barlow and Axe got 'em just last 
week." 



"Barlow was dating a stripper, Ed, and would you wait for Axe? This is 
not the same thing. Becky is a good woman, Ed, and she loves you." 

"Your one to talk about love, Senior. How many wives have you had?" 

"Four, and that means I know what a bad one is like. Becky is nothing 
like any of my ex-wives." 

"Why did she write that then? When your girl says we need to talk, it 
means she needs to talk, and you need to get dumped." 

"She thought you might not understand. She wrote me this letter and told 
me only to tell you if I thought it was an emergency. I think this might qualify." 
He paused and looked into Ed's eyes. "Maybe she knows you better than you 
think." The harvest moon rose full above the ocean. Ed and the Senior Chief 
looked up just in time to see the silhouette of a squadron of fighters crossing its 
path. 

"What is it?" 

"Ed, Becky is pregnant. You're going to be a father." 

Leaning on the cold gray rail they looked down again at the now artifi- 
cially lit flight deck. As the crew moved in to help the disabled bird, a massive 
hydraulic jack was wheeled in and placed under the wing. The plane was jacked 
up, and a crewmember in a yellow shirt drove a flat truck beneath the shy landing 
gear. When the jack was removed the plane was slowly wheeled away, supported 
by the crew. 



i 



Two Men 

Michael E. Roduin Sr. 

Kenny Davis, positioned to the north of his enemy, hunkered down 
behind the large brown boulder for cover. His chocolate chip uniform was clean 
and pressed to the satisfaction of Marine Corp standards. The creases stood out 
tall, and the light layer of dust was from this morning. He had had his new 
sergeants stripes sewn onto the collar, by the company tailor, the night before. 

Forcing himself against the gray green desert moss he reloaded his M-16. 
He put his hand on the cross carved into the barrel, paused, and leapt up to fire 
off half a dozen blind rounds at his enemy to the south. The bullets sent shards 
of rock flying through the barren land. 

As quickly as he leapt up, he receded back to his position. Pausing, he 
listened for movement of any kind. Years of training would come down to this 
day. He would live or die, only two possibilities here on this field. He forced his 
senses into high gear, feeling the air, smelling the blood, and tasting the death, all 
the while listening for anything; hoping to hear nothing. 

Akbar Jahlamur, the soldier to the south, wore a ratted and torn uniform 
that was two sizes too big. He pulled his feet in close as bullets shattered against 
the rocks all around him. He looked at his bolt-action rifle; the machine pressed 
letters on the stock were all in Russian. It was getting hotter. Jahlamur knew 
that his darker complexion would protect him from the sun. He doubted if the 
American could last more than an hour. 



He pressed himself tight against his own rock and peered out to the south, 
out into his country. The war had been going on for two years now. It had not 
been a quick victory for Allah like they told him it would be. For the last six 
months the armies had been locked in a stalemate. Soldiers were dying while 
bureaucrats and attorneys made a profit. He wondered if he would ever get home 
to see his wife and kids again. He missed them, and he missed his home. 

It wouldn't be home if I wasn't here, he thought. This army had come to 
change his way of life. They came to change his country, his government, and his 
home. At first he was reluctant. He had never been a violent man, and was not 
ready to take up arms for this Bin Laden character. He followed the six pillars of 
Islam, and preached for peace. When his country was invaded he prayed that 
Allah would bring a quick resolution. 

Three months went by with no resolution in sight. The Americans occu- 
pied more and more of his country, while Bin Laden and his fighters hid among 
the rocks. When Bin Laden ordered a second attack on the US, it had angered the 
European nations and they had started an all out offensive. Bombing continued 
twenty-four hours a day, and American troops were stationed on every street 
corner. 

On January 13 th , Jahlamur's world changed forever. He had been out of 
the house all day working at the factory. He was a line supervisor, and was doing 
very well for himself and his family. The Americans had come into his home, 
taken one of his sons, and executed him in the street. They claimed he was a 
rebel. He was twelve years old. 

The next day he joined up with the Taliban forces and never looked back. 
They think they know what is right, he thought, godless fiends. 

He loaded his last five rounds into his rifle and prayed to his god. Let me 
know what is right to do. He stroked his beard and thought again of his home. He 
did not, however, pause long. That could be fatal. 



The desert that surrounded them was silent. The stones and sand were 
their only audience. The sun, climbing in the sky, began to burn hotter. 

They had happened upon each other by accident. Sergeant Davis had 
taken a break and walked over the hill to smoke. He was out on watch post by 
himself, a mile from the main body of troops. He thought it was safe; they were 
supposed to be miles from any opposition. He had taken a stroll to keep from 
thinking too much. 

He had been thinking about his wife. He missed her so much. She was 
the best cook in Walsford, Tennessee. He had been thinking what she might have 
for dinner tonight when he happened upon his dark skinned enemy. 

He had not radioed in when he left his post. There would not be a call for 
him to check in. No one would know he was missing for four hours, and only then 
if his relief was on time. 

Lieutenant Jahlamur had been meditating. He was camped nearby. 
Neither force knew how close the enemy was. He was sitting cross-legged when 
he caught the eye of the American. The sight of each other had caused an awk- 
ward blaze of bullets and rush for cover. Jahlamur positioned himself to the 
south, knowing that he would be better protected from the sun. Davis took a 
northern position, hoping his own troops would come up behind the Taliban 
fighter. 

Davis took a long drink from his canteen. The iodine pills made it 
taste like rotten whisky, but if he didn't drink it, he would surely die. He listened 
as his enemy loaded rounds into his own weapon. He can't be more than twenty 
yards away, he thought. He took another sip, winced, and capped the bottle. 

He pulled out his dog tags on which hung a crucifix and the charm of 
Saint Martin. He kissed Christ's feet and spoke to the emblem, "Holy Saint 
Martin, I know I have been asking for a lot lately, but if you could help me out 



just one more time. If you could just get me out of here I guarantee I will give 
you the biggest feast you ever saw on your day. It's been almost a year since 
your last celebration, but we have not forgotten that your day is coming soon. 
Please just get me out of here so I can see my wife and kids." 

Wiping the sweat from his face and looking up at the sun he knew he must 
act soon. He could not handle it out here, without cover, for a full day. He would 
be dead by sundown. 

His thoughts ran back to his wife. The day the planes hit the trade center 
he had quit his job at Target and signed up for the United States Marine Corps. 
She had not wanted him to. She begged him to let others protect the country. 
"They need me over there," he told here. 

"I need you here. Your kids need you here." 

"If I don't do this, who will?" 

"I don't care, I don't want to lose you." 

"I can't stand aside and just let this happen." 

"Why not?" 

"I just can't. There are people that I can help and I am going to help 
them. You married me because you loved that about me. What has changed 
now?" 

"Nothing has changed. I still love you for it. I love you because you 
would risk your life for what you believe in. I don't, however, want you to die." 

Pulling his arms out of his rucksack, he carefully, quietly, slowly peeked 
out around the rock that was his shield. He looked past his enemy toward the 
beautiful desert fields. He did not stare long though; the scene wouldn't be nearly 
as pleasant if it were covered with his blood. 

At the same time, Jahlamur peeked over his own stone. Their eyes locked 
together. Both men stood stone still, sizing the other up, looking for a weakness. 
Both men reached for their weapons, stood, and fired. The air screamed with 



bullets and flashed with fire. The sound of war cracked the desert silence. The 
rounds sparked and flashed on the desert stones. Both men ducked back behind 
their cover, each checking himself for holes; not one round had hit its intended 
mark. 

Davis ejected the empty clip from his weapon and refreshed it with new 
rounds. Twelve left, he thought, twelve more shots to take him out. Now is the 
time. I need all the advantage I can get. He readied himself, dumping the remain- 
der of his gear into a pile on the ground. 

"I'm gonna kill you, you fucking heathen bastard. Allah can't save your 
worthless piece of shit ass now," he screamed into the desert. "Do you hear me 
you Arab faggot?" 

Jahlamur heard the words, but he could grasp no meaning. He knew only 
one American word, chocolate. When he was a boy, relief workers had come to 
the city to fix the water system. People had been getting sick and dying, and these 
men claimed they knew why. They had been working near his home and one of the 
men gave him a large brown bar. "It's chocolate," the man had told him. Akbar 
remembered the word. 

He pulled his pistol from its holster. The rifle had run out of bullets. I 
will kill you for my family. I will kill you for my wife. I will kill you for Allah. 
Screw you and your American chocolate." 

"Hula budie cadii fron go nedeyea forom coot chocolate," was all the 
American heard. He checked his weapon two, three, four times, ensuring every- 
thing was right. Placing his hand on his chest he clutched the crucifix and prayed, 
with his eyes wide open, to his own god. He prayed for enlightenment, for speed, 
and for mercy. He checked his rifle again and steadied himself on his feet, still 
crouched behind the rock. 

"You're gonna die. You hear me, rag head? I'm gonna blow your fucking 



head off, you worthless piece of God hating shit!" 

Again, the lieutenant did not understand. He knew from the tone, how- 
ever, that he was not being asked over for dinner. "You Americans think you are 
so good. You know why your building fell down? Because America sucks, that is 
why." 

Both men popped up again. They moved as though a mirror stood 
between them. Twelve rounds went off from a long rifle, and ten from a pistol. 
The hot molten steel hit no flesh. Not a drop of blood was spilled under the hot 
desert sun. Their blind haste had wasted their best chances of survival. Both men 
paused, and then dove behind the natural barriers that separated them. 

God has saved me. 

Allah has been merciful. 

Jahlamur pulled a photograph from his pocket. It was of his wife and 
oldest son. It was faded and worn, but there was no hint of a loss of love in their 
eyes. He looked skyward and asked Allah for forgiveness. Again he jumped up. 

This time they leapt out from behind their protection, exposing themselves 
to the world and their immediate enemy. They both stopped and stared across the 
sixty feet to the man who would mean life or death to him. Four thin muscular 
forearms flexed with anger; four eyes saw only blood red. Two hungry stomachs 
turned loops; four legs burned, waiting to move. The two men stood staring. The 
two men stood scared. 

Davis grabbed his rifle by the barrel and hurled it at his enemy. Jahlamur 
threw his pistol with all his might. The two weapons, appearing in slow motion to 
the men, struck together in mid air with a wild metallic clang, and fell to the 
ground. 

The men shouted a bath of curse words at one another. Jahlamur threw 
his canteen, Davis his helmet. Both missed. Jahlamur picked up a rock and 
tossed it, hitting Davis in the leg. "Hah," he shouted with his eyes wide open and 



a gaping grin. 

"AHHH." They charged at each other. The sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight 
feet of brown red dust and stone was not a safe place to be. Davis tore of his 
uniform top and tossed it at his enemy's face; Jahlamur threw the money from his 
pocket. Screaming at each other they approached like two speeding trains. 
Jahlamur drew two long curved knives from his belt; Davis pulled a massive, 
straight blade from his boot, and the entrenching tool from his belt. Closing at 
blinding speed the two screaming locomotives collided in a huge crash. Dust flew 
up as they fell, fighting for their homes, their countries, their lives, to the ground. 

One soldier swung and missed. The other returned with a solid blow. Hot 
blood dripped onto the desert sand. One swung, the other kicked, one stabbed, the 
other ducked. The fury of blows and parries was a terribly beautiful sight. They 
exchanged blow after blow in a masterful display, each practiced in his art. 

At last he struck the deathblow, a knife in the gut of his opponent. He 
saw the eyes, the realization, and felt the warm blood trickle down his thumb and 
across his wrist. He watched as the dark red drips became a bright flowing 
stream. The stream ran down the sand into a growing lake of red death. Death 
would ride on this stream and take away his enemy. 

Why has my god not protected me? 

He looked up, the painful blade in his gut, and searched the eyes of his 
enemy, the man who had killed him. Was that sadness he saw there? Was it fear? 
He looked down at the wound. He would not see his home. He would not see his 
children. He would not see his wife. He would not leave the battlefield trium- 
phant or unharmed. He would not return to his tent and eat a poor substitute for a 
meal. He would not talk of his friends and tell stories of this day. No more would 
he breathe this damned desert air. His god had forsaken him and he had lost. No 
breath left in his lungs, he prayed silently. Collapsing against the other man he 



peered out across the desert, waiting for the light. 

Slowly, quietly, honorably, they died there. They fell into each other, and 
the dead weight of one supported the other. Their bodies leaned upon each other 
forming a statue of death. The sun, now on its downward slope would soon 
spread their image across miles of sand, cacti, and desert weeds. 



Mother Thersa 

Leslie Moses 

I was at the express checkout line just getting some cereal. One 
item qualified me to be in that line but the woman in front of me had at least 
thirty. I looked up at the dim lit ' 12 items or less' sign and sighed. This-this 
wasn't right. 

The woman had a baby, a small newborn facing me from the back 
of the buggy in his little car seat. He screamed with raining eyes and little 
nostrils that flared so far up that I thought they would fly away. The 
baby's lungs were healthy and he showed me he could scream even louder 
when he noticed someone was actually listening. Watery eyes, flared 
nostrils and now his little coffee colored arms reached up towards me 
begging to be held. And I thought about it, really I did. I almost unbuck- 
led the child to cradle it in my arms. It would no doubt quit crying then 
and he would grow up to be a loved child with a promising future and be a 
doctor or lawyer or whatever job all babies start out being and end up 
hating. 

"Man be quiet! I'm right here!" If I did it real fast I could swoop 
the whole car seat up and take the baby home and wipe those wet eyes 
and hold that baby till he was asleep. Oh those little arms! He kept crying 
and the woman he would later know as mom turned around again. 
"Shhhhhhhh! I'm right here!" I felt the nostrils flare and an instant bond 



with junior was formed. 

And then an unconscious "You wanna come home with me?" flew 
out of my mouth. Oops. The woman turned around again and this time 
she talked to me. 

"He's scared of you, why you think he's crying?" 

I felt the mercury inside me hit the top of my glass dome but I took 
a deep breath and counted to ten in Russian and then yelled, "He's crying 
because he thinks you got too many groceries to be in this aisle." 

Oh, this was dumb. The fierce comments we exchanged over- 
lapped with boiling anger. But she totally out-worded me and when the 
dust cloud cleared the woman and baby were gone and the cashier was 
sweeping my cereal across the scanner. Yep, I was saving the world, one 
child at a time, but you know these things take practice. 



Sad Story 

Sarah Beth Link 

What a common name: Sarah. I hate it. So now I go by Sarah Beth, a bit 
more original. My great aunt's name is Sarah; I suppose I was named after her. 
Sad story. She's a chain-smoking liar who tries to act like she likes me when she 
hugs me hello after not seeing me for years. 

Sarah means princess. Sarah should be a rare name, only used for the 
flowers among the thistles. There are too many girls whose parents named them a 
name that's supposed to make them feel pretty. It could mean pretty on the inside, 
bologna. To be a "princess" is to be enchantingly beautiful and elegant, wearing 
pretty gowns. At least that's what the stories tell little girls who want to be 
princesses. I wanted to feel that way so that I could own my name, just for a 
second. Now snobby girls have defeated the meaning of princess by wearing 
shirts that say, "I'm a princess." Like being stuck on yourself will make you that 
way. 

One time I spent a whole day getting ready, getting prissed up, being oh so 
girlie. This lady who giggled like a chipmunk and looked much better than me 
(even though she's a mom), did my hair and put on my make-up. I put on make- 
up sometimes, but not how she did it. I got fake nails that made me almost 
helpless. I had to ask Aaron to open my pop. I put on pantyhose that made me an 
inch smaller all around; I guess that's the point. I put on a white dress that made 



my body look curvy, more womanly than it really is. I wore pearls. So what 
if they aren't really real, they look that way. For the first time, I looked in the 
mirror slightly surprised. 

The moment he saw me, he wispered, "You look beautiful." Except this time 
I believed that he meant it. Even though he told me a hundred times. Each of 
those times I would look down to the right and say meekly "Thank you." Even 
though I thought it was a lie. Every time I felt like saying, "You're full of crap." 
But that would hurt his feelings, and I wouldn't want to do that. This time I 
smiled. When we took pictures, little Benjamin thought we looked like we were 
getting married. Later, his grandfather, whom I have made my own, went home 
and cried. What made a grown man cry? 

A few days later I went to the office to pick up my pictures from the dance. I 
told her my name. She pulled out the pictures, looked at them and said, You're not 
Sarah." As if to say, you don't look like a princess. Nor do you belong with this 
charming prince. "I am Sarah. That's me in the picture." She glanced back 
down, shook her head hesitantly, ever so slightly. I blurted out "yes." My face 
was starting to get hot. I waited as she studied my face for a second that felt like 
an hour. Even if she thought it wasn't me, what does it matter? Why would I 
want to steal anyone else's pictures? I was embarrassed. I wanted to scream at 
her and snatch my pictures from her hand. Then she handed them over. No, I'm 
not a princess. I'm ordinary, even though all the other girls got all girlied up too. 

Now I'm at the house that belongs to a worn out woman who still looks 
young, but is tired inside. She still laughs with a light heart, but her children have 
made her skin run dry. Her little girl, who reminds me of myself, holds my light 
brown hair as she tries to sleep. My hair used to be golden and curly. I see 
myself in a place like this, strapped down by a big husband who doesn't help, who 
doesn't appreciate me, who doesn't make me feel like a princess. I have this 



urgency to run free, but I'm not there yet. I haven't chosen that way. I 
won't. He won't... be like that. 

"Dee-ah," the little girl calls to me, her little mouth can't say my name. I've 
awoke from my daymare. I should be named Deah. That's an odd name. It 
doesn't quite fit in, or make any sense, like me. I could make up my own mean- 
ing. Then I could own my name that isn't oridinary, American, and dull. That 
cancels out any meaning it has, by meaning something extraordinary. Deah would 
fit me. 



Poetry 



1-95 

Emily Joost 

My comrades and I found him as we turned off of 84 and onto 95 south. He 
sat on the gravel patch at the edge of the on ramp using his worn tan satchel, 
which appeared the texture of weathered skin, as a seat. He seemed to be the 
sterotypical drifter. "Where you headed?" he inquired gruffly as we slowed to 
debate the situation 

"Jacksonville," we chimed. 

"That's some luck, I heard there's work down that way." We just shrugged, 
I'm sure he would have been headed to Alaska if thats where we were going. The 
three of us looked at each other. Our brand-new, black, borrowed pick-up 
gleamed. 

"Why not? We'll throw him in the back," our GI said. We nodded and told 
him to jump in. We reasoned that if we were stuck in the sun of a Georgia on 
ramp, we'd want someone to pick us up too. 

He jumped in and rode the full three hours making small talk through the cab 
window. When we stopped for a burger our GI, the groups protector, even bought 
him a beer. Funny how the military makes boys feel invincible. 

He laughed as we made semis honk and waved at cars with out of state 
plates. I'm sure he could have told us a story worth retelling, but he didn't and we 
didn't ask. We were content to let our imaginations wander the states with a worn 
leather satchel. 



Forsyth Park February 28 2001 

Emily Joost 



He sat on 

a bench, arms out 

stretched, resting 

on the top rung, 

bedrole beside 

him, red t-shirt bulging 

above the belt, black 

jacket with unbottoned 

cuffs flapping, ankles 

crossed over worn steel 

toed boots. 

staring 

straight forward, inhaling 

the smell of a paper 

mill city, 

crystal coal skin glistening, 

watching, 

just like yesterday 

and tomorrow, 

welcoming the morning. 



# 18 

Ryan Clark 

The disdainful shadows flicker, 
flicker even as I stare; 

I perceive the cold surround me 
drawing me unaware. 

Thoughts transcend astral planes, 

thoughts of past connections, 

of questions regarding me as sane 

in dire need of protection. 

Attempts to embrace the collective known 

leaves me tired and cold, 

a consciousness left resurrection shown 

to me futility told. 

Forsaken by wraiths and shade 

dancing upon my head, 

will I experience life again, 

or am I already dead? 



#32 

Ryan Clark 



The rain last night was phenomenal 
The view from the dock serene 
The clouds formed like entities above me 
with corridors through time being seen 

Luck I feel having seen this 
About mine eyes they protrude 
The birth of the storm is in front of me 
Like a ship just a little askew. 

The drops came down with passion 
as we sought the dock house for now 
Wanting to be part of nature 
Enduring the wet coming down. 

From the porch the scene is beautiful 
Darkness masking light from within 
How lucky I feel having seen this 
A part of God to me on a whim. 



a mazing mouse 

Jeanette Kehr 



my whiskers 

turn down this way 

no right 
should I turn 
left ok 

clickity click 
ooh my bell-ee 
hunga-r-ee! So-oo dizzy 
long gray walls so-oo high 
know the 

sliver of ch-ee-eesse is 
oh, yea 
it's this way 
ooh white coat 
just tell 

me save me the time 
tickity tick 
I am so-oo hungry 
last time 
tick tick 
had chee-z 
so-oo dizzy 

and tired and 
dizz-ee 
plee-z tell me 
which way 



ok I'm going right 
and right 
again 

yum, sniff 
now left 
how long has it 
been 
tick tick 

I did it yesterday 
tick tick 

I have to remember 
it was there yesterday 
the chees-z 
at the end 

yea it was yesterday 
tick tick 

one more right then 
another left 
it's time 
tick tick 
clickity click 
Ooh! White Coat! 
Plee-z! 
Yes! 
Chee-z! 



A Past Left Undone 

Ryan Clark 

Rain . . . plummeting through the corridors of her heart, 
weeping from fountains of gray shade, 
glissading across empty walls of joy, 
redemption of a scathed path made. 

The truth of shame as a cloak 

she through hours of saturated pain, 

minutes askew as she soaks 

in her seconds described as sane. 

Her dim light glimmers for future love 

seeking not a shallow comfort through temptation, 
silently awaiting her chance for love 
as she yearns . . . only for vindication. 



Birthday Poem 1998 

(for Marcus) 
Melissa Hill 

You know that I do not want to exist here anymore 

in this Fallen world of literature and history 

where we try to build an exit, 

fly above the pain and rage, 

the ignorant and the elite. 
Do you look towards the stars and remember 

a time when they were not so far away, 

a time when the moon turned 

on an axis we could reach? 

We dance through this world with tears in our eyes, 

weeping for the love, grace and innocence 

we threw away so casually. 
I miss it now, and see a remnant of my former light 

in the sideways glance of cancerous eyes, 

and I smoke too much 

and I drink too much 

and I don't feel enough — 
I carve my youth in rusty razorblades 

and leave scars for your concern to trace 

as I sing Happy Birthday 

to all the souls delivered on this day: 
This is the day of the dreaming dead, 

and I give you a prophecy, 



and I cry you a vision — 
All these things are yours, I say — 
can you believe in me? 

I know I am always leaving, hoping for the right key 

to the right door, 

a return to my summer Eden 

when the birds sang their soul for me — 

all this, and nothing more. 
I cannot believe in me, 

But if this poem were a door and I could step through 

into a world where things made sense 

and words weren't hollow, 

where love and betrayal 

didn't spin in the same iris, 

where the sun would shine and leave no blisters 

where I could dance without crying 

in all the fires of remembrance, 
I would leave it open for you. 



Drinking Her 

Melissa Hill 

Scars that sang to weeping willows 

As I lay naked by the riverside, 

Mud that covered the cycles of shame 

And the sweet water that washed it all away- 

This was my river Jordan, 



Downstream from my grandmother's grave. 

Today she lives inside the mud, 

A crawling thing that slithered past my open eyes 

While I was blind inside my rage. 

Sometimes I am sick with the taste of it, the smell 
That drove me to the river's edge, 
Where on my knees I drank the water 
Though it smelled and tasted of cancer, 
The destruction inherent to her name, 
Her story, her sadness, her sickness- 
There I lost my touch, the knack of pity. 
My grief slid through my open hands, 
And quickly, though quietly, drowned. 

I never saw my reflection; the water moves 

Too fast, and speaks in tongues that leave 

Me confused and trembling, sounding, as they do, 

Like her. But I saw her face 

Crawling the length of a cottonmouth snake, 

And once again, I was the intruder, 

And I sang, Jericho, Jericho, 

Your walls are thicker than I remember, 

And the trumpets louder inside my soul. 



trembling hands 
dig for meaning 
You already know 
ungrateful untrusting 
You see behind a 
cover page written 
where can I hide? 
whisper forgiven 
with love, the Cross 
broken by mercy 
tears dangle from 
finite pale eyes 
You hold me 



Finite Blue Eyes 

Sarah Beth Link 



Honey 

Melissa Hill 

This city kills me while I sleep. 

Honeysuckle hands extend 

fingers to the fading light, creep 

through curtains and, ever inward, 

steal like knives to my dreaming eyes, 

as the weeping willow tree 

taps out a rhythm on my shade, 

with all his hearts spread seven ways 

from Hell and sometimes 

only brushing the glass in the windowpane. 

This is what I can dream 

when I am alone in this opium den: 

The scent of oak, of freshly mown grass, 

the dimness of this murderous house, 

leaving me locked inside the honeysuckle tube, 

with only a sparkle of my sugar water left 

to refract, combine, and welcome the light, 

vibrating on the tip of the stamen that becomes this city, 

that steals my eyes and leaves me blind. 



Morning Rush 

Andy Wilharm 



The breeze is rolling off the Grashing waves; 
It's cold and salty under darkened skies. 
Approaching weather from the sea behaves 
as builder; thus titanic waves arise. 

Increasing gusts of wind are blasting sand 
against the backs of patient, local men, 
who wait to worship sea, as some do land, 
who gave up a full sleep, to join their kin. 

The sun is not sight, but lights' present. 
The groups of people fade into the spray, 
await the chance to ride the first crescent, 
forgetting all but waves and wasting day. 

The sky is gray, the water turns out rough, 
but these few surfers cannot get enough. 



One More Day 
Jeanette Kehr 

Inside my head the memory 

of Van Gogh's "Starry 

Night" bleeds through the wall 

across my room, waving its swirly broad strokes 

of saffron and blue. Through my Window, 

my mind floating, 

I applaud the narrow steeple cutting 

through the swirling sky. 

My thin sick blood drips 

narrowly into 

the clicking 

machine 

returning, dripping 

then re-entering 

my body. My eyes close 

shutting off the fluorescent 

lights and I enter a red tiled parlor. 

Chocolate icecream swirls dripped 

with nuts and a single red cherry 

nestles high upon my rootbeer float. 

A young counter girl narrowed 

blue-black eyes gazing, plucks the stem 

then click 

her nails on the counter. 

My head tips back, my mouth applauds 

the red cherry as it narrowly 

enters my throat, floating 



through my stomach. From far away I hear 

the quieting swirl of the machine as it's counting 

my heart beats, 

click one. 

click two. 

click three. 

Clicking 

soon 

and so on. Outside my window, 

Van Gogh's "Starry Night," 

is becoming clearer, his broadening 

strokes float counter clockwise 

and the piercing steeple 

stabs at me 

and the stars drip upon my blood 

swirling 

round and round 

as my heart pounds 

keeping the beat for one more day. 



Pecking Order 

Jeanette Kehr 

The seed I planted several springs ago, sprung 
into a lazy daisy that droops 
for the plump bumble bee 
collector of nectar, and overhead 
is the little brown sparrow, chirping, high upon the sagging bough, 
as my yellow-orange tabby crouches on all fours, 
creeping with his claws, padding on his paws, and spread out upon 
his belly, his eyes glazing over, shoulders still 
as my spindly legged mutt sniffs the bush 
the pavement, the flowers, and then 
my yellow-orange tabby, and still 
the little brown sparrow is chirping high upon the 
sagging bough 
until, 

the roar of the four wheeler accelerates 
and the little brown sparrow 

flies 

away 



Possession is 1 80 Proof 
Jeanette Kehr 

I drive my mouth to your fiery flame — pain 
sleeps. Burning, scorching interior flesh 
fervor to my exterior — you gain 
solemn faith. My core is safe — you refresh. 
Sweetly potent over me I witness 
you, sweet bronze liquor, waiting to bargain 
with me. Glazed stare, I crave to confess 
to you, Oh Vial! You are my only kin. 
Ashen flesh embodies my need, Oh Flame! 
can my eyes be crossroads to your prison? 
I beg you! Don't burden me with your shame! 
Your sting too intense, but my hand — risen! 
Can you, my sweet kin, fix me or replace 
your difference to the life I face? 



Red Shades 

Sarah Beth Link 



staple my incisions with cheap 

words you freely toss 

when they rust 

poison permeates me 

red shades onto your eyes 

aren't quite enough 

to dampen the dull ache 

pulsing in my head 

I'm sorry — you say 

one more wound 

ruptures 



Sense 

Richard DiPirro 

I 

smoked cannibus 

in Saudi Arabia 
twice. 

Six of us sat 
and smoked 

somewhat silently 

I was scared that 

someone would smell 

the sweet aroma. 

"So what?" One Sergeant said. 

Some friend sent the substance 

stuck stealthfully in seven pages 
he wrote. 

Some serious friend . . . 

After we smoked, 
we were stoned — 

we sang and said some stupid stuff. 



We laughed and wished the sun 
would stay 

fast asleep. 

So that 

we wouldn't see 

the sand. 

And wouldn't have to stand 
as some sentry on 

some shithole spot. 

Someone said 

this was the best of their stay 
in Saudi Arabia. 

I say 
it still 

sucked. 



The Attempt 
Emily Joost 
"Now and then it is good to pause in the pursuit of happiness and just be happy.' 

-Anonymous 

The light burst 

through the tiny panes of crisscrossed 

glass, making the slated wood floor a jigsaw 
of color and shadow. 
A lone cloud scooted across the sky, 

darkening Talmadge Bridge. 
I sat on my cushion, pulled off 
of the couch and up 

to the window to expose 
myself to the light. 
I patiently tried to reason through 

M. Scott Peck, but the view kept 

catching my attention and drawing 
it outside to how the sun 

reflected, making the landscape 
burst with color. 
The pansies cushioned the azaleas 

and the dwarf sunflowers acted as a bridge 
between tall and small. 
I again attempted to focus on The Road Less Traveled 
and to push away the cloud 

of ignorance, MY original sin. 
When my patience stumbled, 

my attention turned to the light 



reflecting off of the swirling 
river water, the cloudy 

color of granite. It ran 

around, but never seemed to get 
anywhere it hadn't already 
been. 

Once more I focused between Peck's 
covers, this time distracted 

by a different sense. The city's aroma crept 
up through the oaks and moss 

to my fourth story perch, so I paused 
to inhale the busy smell of 

magnolia and hot pavement. 
I know the logical reason 

why my quest should press on, 

but the wind, natures fingertips, 

brushes my hair and makes me forget. 
I will try 

again tomorrow. Today, I will 
sit on my cushion, 

watch the bridge, 

and enjoy the light. 



The Price of Gas These Days 

Brian Hansen 

The blister-blackened bodies of Baghdad's burning babies; faces frozen in silent scream 
Unholy memories I try to suppress as I pursue the "American Dream" 

But I've been to the battlefield altar and watched the blood flow freely 
Into sand, through pipelines, to gas pumps, to power new S.U.V.s 

While CNN painted their pretty pictures with pixels of night-vision green 
I witnessed cease-fire slaughters and learned about the "Machine" 

And now at weekly worship at the shrine of BP or Shell 
I help finance a national addiction that is leading us straight into hell 

For we all know we are killing our Mother as we leech this black milk from inside her 
Yet we slick back our beaches and choke on the fumes as the rift in the heavens grows 

wider 



this child of mine 

Jeanette Kehr 

sprightly spurns his showers — never a drop 
renders him wet he uses the toilet for 
target practice 
but in his bed 
bullseye! 

Dripping his syrup 

all butterfingers — the milk takes flight 
his face butterfly nectar 
sweet 
sticky. 
Legs long — lean writhing lasso 
harnessed muscle 
he is a renaissance masterpiece 

he squats on his heels and peers over 

the dead beetle — cries for its 
mommy — look upstairs — no worry — 
God is his neighbor — 
zealous hands dictate his day — his voice 
surrenders to the silly cat in the hat — zoom 

he stumbles. 

His eyes caress buttery daffodils outside his window — dash 

he plucks all 
— but one 

avoiding Mr. Spider 
his mommy might cry. 



Westside Urban Health Center 

Richard DiPirro 

flakes of chipped red paint 
around clouds of commiseration 
children's kids smiling — teeth missing 
they don't know they're beaten yet 
down the clinic 

dirty holes in second-hand clothes 
draped over bent metal folding-chairs 
cough cough cough and a spray of hachoo 
waiting for hours for a ten minute visit 
down the clinic 

criminal loud program on trash t.v. 
pretty people with perfect lives 
grandma laughs but there's no one around 
plastic plants smell like fluorescence 
down the clinic 

a husband wakes up and ties his old wife's shoes 
waiting a whole life with a fractured rib 
she shuffles off to x-ray land, and he 
eats a dry bun from a Sunbeam bag 
down the clinic 



crochet needles and a world of cellulite 
fuzzy gray house-shoes slap-slap 
anyone dressed well is a salesman 
come in sick and you walk out crazy 
down the clinic 



Without this Ring 

Jeanette Kehr 

Your elastic union, I won't excuse. 

My reluctance, my second thoughts, I pour 

to the floor, I glide. I will refuse 

to be the token you assumed, I amuse. 
Instead, I pirouette through the church door, 
your elastic union I won't excuse. 

I prance down the aisle, a pivoting ruse, 
it is your good intention I adore, 
but to the floor I glide. I will refuse, 

to be an extension of your paying dues. 
It is your indiscretion, I forgive no more. 
Your elastic union, I won't excuse. 

For your dancing with someone else, I choose 
not to forgive you, instead I will soar 
to the floor. I glide. For I will refuse 

to be the perfect hand, you want to subdue. 
I have no mercy, for that is a chore. 
An elastic union, I won't excuse. 
To the floor I glide, and I can't refuse. 



Witness 

Melissa Hill 

Light shines where no wave breaks, 

The dark god tossing his restless curses to the shore, 

To a man who cries, "This is not my world," 

As he takes each pulse of water into his veins; 

The stars are going nova in his mind, 

One by one exploding like hate 

At a forty-five degree angle to the spark 

That tried to be the way and the light. 

With his starry night, his dark mad water, and 

His hateful gaze, who will witness his strange ways? 

Nine nails, he says, were cast from the fisher's net, 

Two hundred shells washing to the sand — 

Their grooves spin under his clockwork ways, 

And push him towards the sea. 

His witnesses crawl on five-barred legs, 

From sightless caves to descend on rocks, 

Holding the salt of Lethe just out of his reach. 

Waves break where no light shines, 

Madness building walls that have learned to wait 

For the man crying, "This is not my world," 

As he sinks down and surrenders his death, 

In waves of gold, a dark red hue, 

His breath, his blood, leaving stars of air, rising 

To the surface — (Witnesses as they burst) — washing 

Into space on miles of empty light. 



missionary on broad street 

John DeLong 

on the corner paces 
a madman — fervent, 
screaming 
with 

the voice of god 

(screaming) 
to the dead that 
zig-and-zag to 

avoid 

him — on the way to work 

and class and coffee and lunch and 

and 

god knows where 

with this look, 
this look, like 
somebody farted. 

but still he screams, 

through the clouds cluttering the sun and crowds of sheep terrified of salvation 

and the consequences of all their actions 

and into the night wet 



with all the baptismal 
glory of October rains. 

i always laughed but tithed 
with change or a smoke or 

ten minutes of time. 

i tried to tell him: 

fuck the lost 

get a damned shower. 

but he just smiled and screamed and puffed on the cigarette and 

paced around 

on the filthy sidewalk. 



one-thirty a.m. on south Carolina two-twenty-four 

John DeLong 



a ghost 

(slipping over the 
ice and water 
and asphalt like 

a shadow) 

listening to some old 

country and western 

(like conway twitty 
or hank williams 
or that long haired 



hippie my daddy hated 
cause he was a long haired 
hippie and all his songs 
had drums like african tribals 
(but i liked it — the pulsating the throbbing the 
smooth-rough pound-sound of stick slapping skin 
and some good ole boy wailing 
about baby havin' her blue-jeans on) 

) 

like my father did. 

i pretend he is here with me. laughing and telling me we still have twelve more 
hours to drive so just relax and you just took a pee twenty minutes ago at the rest 
stop so don't let me hear that. 

outside is 
black and starry 

(that new moon promise 

little light and more 

implications than 

i care to deal with 

(given this cold — outside 

is like frozen dirt that 

caves in slow on all 

sides of this 

cheap metal coffin) 
) 



down a highway that begins in the middle of nowhere and ends in the middle of 
nowhere, in search of answers in the form of questions in the form of places that 



I've never seen — looking for places i can't get back — out of reach 

now. 

(coyote is laughing in the woods 

all around, howling in appreciation 

of some joke he started some twenty years 

before that's punchline is still a long ways off.) 

but maybe i'll be okay this time, maybe i'll be okay this time, 
(i say as i light my lucky and watch 

the ghosts of silent indians and runaway slaves and truckers 
fly by.) 



on warning labels and invitations 

Michelle Woodson 

instructions lost on the air near my ears )( just under the tounge and don't 
don't don't unless you want this person in your head for a multitude of days/ 
unintentional family/ things look truer black and white typed, thin scrawls 
and its all just what someone decided to say /someone decided to say don't 
so I did/ some intense connection un cunt ain able there exists a fine line 
between my eyes and the back of my skull so I invited you in in so thin 
in/ spin a mind is a terrible thing to taste tornado flavor/ yours was faster, but 
did you really? have you ever? no, I don't think, suppose had it been 
important you'd have told me twice/ alone I held head high through that 
mirror maze test phaze and passed the flying eye exam finally free perfpaper 
headtree and fuck the surgeon general I'm smoking a drum and not thinking 
of you at all 



Sunday 

Michelle Woodson 

chocolip implications I'm radiating Friday in your 

left ear 

something too soft that closes /inon/ 

those tiniest bones in there 

somewhere 

I ask about the drums, want to drink their 

rhythms 

fingertip shotglass 

we'd been alive on this planet 

like two piles of days till 

I tripped on your bottom lip 

and all my pages fell /out of/ 

Ctrl 

you kiss my neck because it's there 

let my mouth start fires on hipskin 

say I make you feel like lesbian 

wants to start them everywhere 

slow bake mind steam 

you hold my breath till I'm dizzying 

we/still 

until the day of rest and praise 

lost in this skinescape 

in bed for two days 



Trove 

for Zora, too, but mostly Dave 
Michelle Woodson 



He said I'd never write because 
I'm too busy 

living 

and I wanted to kick 
his smiling teeth in. 

still, I can't decide 
which one of us 

is angrier 

and if I really want 
to kiss his smiling — 

or 

more simply 

to crack him open like some 

hopeful oyster 

just to see if he's all more of those 
skin covered sacks of dirt 
some people call food 
and insist on the aphrodisiac 
qualities locked 

inside: 



'Just let it slide down your throat," 
they say smiling that 

winkable 

kickable 

smile. 



Or 

will this be the time 

the persistence of dreams 

insists that I hope 

to twist my knife, 

take a bite 

and break my tooth on a pearl. 

Then, 

shock of bloody tooth and 
dragonfly-wing jewel, 
I'll spit them both out 

laughing. 



Art 




Hope 

Walter Benvides 




SelfPortrait 

Cindy Nesmith 




— 



C/3 

CD 



c 



< 




Why Me ? 

Lisa Fordham 







Different View 

Selma Lewis 




Within 

Sebastian Philipp 




Aliens 

Nikki Baker 




Untitled 

Sebastian Philipp 




Transformation 

Al John Fontanilla 




o f 

o -5 

Oh 



3 



c 
c 

O 




<u 



w -a 

X< CD 



1/3 



oo 






eh 




Armstrong Atlantic 
State University 






alliope 

JL2003 




-v 






Staff 



Editor: Emily Joost 

Assistant Editor: Amy Limpert 

Art Editor: Julian Santa-Rita 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Christopher Baker 

Staff: 

Carol Linskey 

Chris Dunn 

Chris Shirley 

Alledria Hurt 



Calliope is published annually by and for the students and 
faculty of Armstrong Atlantic State University. Funding is 
provided by AASU's Student Government Association. 
Outstanding selections receive the Lillian Spencer Awards 

and the art award. 

Submissions are accepted throughout the fall semester for the 
following year's publication. Anyone interested in working on 
the 2004 edition of Calliope should contact 
Dr. Christopher Baker in The Department of 
Languages, Literature, and Philosophy. 



If you are a dreamer come in, 

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, 

a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer, 

If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire 

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. 

- Shel Silverstein 



Fiction 

Title, author Page 

There's a Piano in the Creek By: Sasha McBrayer 12 

The Wisherman By: Stephen Mosca 18 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind By: Karen Harrell 25 

thats just chaos By: Vicky Smith 28 

Five Minutes By: Bianca Bury-Rodriguez 34 

Don 't Tell Mommy By: Amy Limpert 38 

Faith Under Fire By: Stephen Mosca 63 



Faith Under Fire by Stephen Mosca is this years recipient of the 
Lillian Spencer Award for short fiction. 



Poetry 

Title, author Page 

This is a Battlefield My Dear By: Teresa Bergman 78 

Professors By: Teresa Bergman 79 

Residual Requiem for recurring Relinquished Relics 

By: Louis Clausi 80 

Swingin' in the Tide By: Maddy Adams 82 

Alcohol's Proof By: Erin Turner 84 

Pillow Talk By: Lesli Claus 85 

Candy By: Sasha McBrayer 86 

The Game By: Sasha McBrayer 87 

Gorgon By: Chris Burchette 88 

Mariah and her Fancy Red Scarf By: Ryan Clark 89 

If I Were Set With Wings Ample Enough To Fly 

By: Louis Clausi 90 

Metals Sent From Greece to America By: Eric Verhine 91 

The Breaking Point By: Erin Turner 92 

Meditations from a Mountain By: Ryan Clark 93 

Untitled By: Donald Stapleton 94 

Protestantism By: Eric Verhine 95 

Trick From the Hat By: Maddy Adams 96 

Relative Individuality By: Eric Verhine 98 

Bald Mountain Maine, July 17 2003 By: Emily Joost 100 

Spider By: Amy Limpert 101 

Mother By: Amy Limpert 101 

Phys. Ed. By: Jeremy Windus 102 

/ wish By: Vicky Smith 103 

time warped letters set in stone By: Vicky Smith 104 

I remember By: Vicky Smith 105 

a quiet (still) day By: Vicky Smith 106 

the insomniac's play By: Vicky Smith 107 

epiphany while scrubbing the toilet By: Vicky Smith 108 

recipe for a lesson in pursuit of tomorrow 

By: Vicky Smith 109 

recipe for a lesson in pursuit of tomorrow by Vicky Smith is this 
year's recipient of the Lillian Spencer Award for poetry. 






Art 

Title, author Page 

Naive Knew Better By: Sebastian Phillip 1 13 

Ocean By: Amy Limpert 1 14 

Behold Your Life By: Jeremy Windus 115 

Pause By: Emily Joost 116 

Gladys, Deana and the Next By: Onica Kitchens 117 

Hell Surfer By: Jane Boswell 118 

Untitled By: Bil Leidersdorf 119 

Shadow to Man By: Chris Dunn 120 

Solitude By: Jarrett Walsh 121 

Fado; Lisboa By: Julian Santa-Rita 122 

Earshot By Sebastian Phillip 123 

Bad Bunny By: Sasha McBrayer 124 

Samurai - Duty Before Love By: Sasha McBrayer 125 

Untitled By: Jamie Stone 126 

Homeward By: Jeremy Windus 127 

Shades of the Past #3 By: Onica Kitchens 128 



Naive Knew Better by Sebastian Phillip is this years recipient of 

the art award. 



On The Cover: Seperate is Boundby Julian Santa-Rita. 






Fiction 



There's a Piano in the Creek 

Sasha McBrayer 

It is a pleasant day. Usually I hate how it feels out, but things 
are strangely mellow. I'm standing on a worn old country road. It 
has probably been here for a hundred years at least. Its been paved 
over several times since its first construction, but you can still feel 
the age. I feel it even more so since this street, for me, represents 
everything that is old. I'm standing in front of my grandmother's 
house. It has been my grandmother's house since my father was a 
boy. If I look behind me, I will see my great grandparent's house. 
It's here, too. And at one time my uncle lived across the field, but 
his second wife made him move so their fragile marriage wouldn't 
be so affected by his mother living ten yards away. It didn't matter 
much. He divorced her, then remarried her, then divorced her again. 
In total he has been divorced three times now between two women. 

The sun is warm, but hidden enough behind fluffy, white 
clouds so as not to make me sweat overly much. I can feel the 
humidity on my face and on the back of my neck. I can feel it in my 
throat as I steadily breathe in the warm air. It isn't as bad as it 

12 



usually is, though. The cicadas are awake, filling my ears with their 
constant screeching. Though many things have changed since my 
childhood, cicadas still frighten me. Have you ever seen a cicada's 
shell? They are thick, hearty little insects, the size of a small walnut, 
who make an awful racket all summer and shed their skin. I've 
never seen a live cicada, but I have found their lifeless shells and 
each one gives me a chill. 

The big white house behind me is exactly the same. There 
are new owners living there now who don't even know me. They 
don't know that I swam in their pool once, or that I ate dinner in 
their living room. They don't know that my grandma lives across 
from them or that my great grandparents live right next door. They 
don't realize that the little tomato garden only inches from their 
property is tended daily by my great grandpa and that I've eaten a 
few tomatoes from there. They also do not know that there's a girl 
standing in the road in front of their house planning to do some 
questionable things. 

I cross the narrow street to stand on my grandmother's 
porch. There are cobwebs everywhere. This is nothing new. I think 
the biggest spider I ever saw had a web here one summer. The huge 
bushes gave her plenty of shade to hide in. There's an old porch 
swing that's always been here, too. I would sit in it and contemplate 
what it is I'm about to do, but it's covered with dust. And who 
knows, there might be a cicada or spider — waiting there to get me. 



13 



As I examine the porch I see the mailbox where I've gotten 
some of my own mail. Yes, my parents and I called this home for a 
time, two separate instances. What kind of a grown man moves his 
family into his mother's house? I'll never know. . . I remember the 
first time we stayed here for more than just a visit. I was in third 
grade and everyone was beginning to think there was something 
wrong with me because I could not remember my address or 
telephone number. None of them had the slightest clue that it was no 
problem with my memory, but rather my will. I did not want to 
remember it. To remember it would mean it was true. This place. . . 
was my home. 

My grandmother isn't home. I've made sure of that. Now is 
my chance. I MUST be insane, but all I feel is anger. If I don't do 
something about it, channel some of this negative energy, I'll just 
explode. I've never felt this way before. I have to do this. 

I know exactly where my grandma hides the extra key. It 
has been in the same place since my dad was a boy. I have to stand 
on an old chair to reach it, but I get it, and I open the door. As I 
enter, so many memories hit me. It has only been five years since 
my last visit to this place, but suddenly it seems like it has been 
longer. I can remember my cousin chasing me around on this slick 
floor in his superman PJ's. I remember third grade, when I brought 
home tons of books for homework every night and my back hurt 



14 



from the weight of my book bag. God, I remember so much. I 
wonder if everyone has memories like mine. I wonder how many 
other little girls have been so wounded by family. 

"The road to grandma's house is never long. ,, That is what 
the plaque on the wall says. I'd prefer that it said, "Escape is futile; 
abandon all hope ye who enter here." 

I swallow the lump in my throat and move into the dark 
living room. It is just as I left it. The same couch with the same 
handmade throw sits in front of the same coffee table, holding her 
almost finished crossword puzzle. It never occurs to me that I'm 
breaking and entering. This is my grandmother's house! There are 
photographs of me as a child all over this place. They were taken 
when I was cute. When it was all right for me to be chubby and shy. 
Before I needed things like money, and praise, and support, and a 
place to live. Finally, the object of my desire is within view. The 
huge wall piano doesn't seem as big as it did when I was small and 
it was my favorite toy. It has never been tuned and is rarely dusted. 
I move to it and remove all of my grandmother's picture frames and 
candle sticks from it. 

I pause. I might as well listen to it one last time before 
forever silencing the old girl. I raise the cover. I remember how 
difficult it used to be for me to lift the heavy wooden cover and how 
afraid I was of catching my tiny fingers in it like the mouse traps my 
grandmother keeps in the basement. 

15 



I press a key. It's so loud. It startles me. I remember I 
could never play softly, no matter how hard I tried. I play. First I 
play Fur Elise. It's my favorite song for the piano. Then, I play El 
Shadai, a gospel song I taught myself. Finally, after a short pause, I 
play Heart and Soul. It is only fitting. This is where I learned it. 

Despite the piano being out of tune, I'm pleased and I 
know it's time to go on with my mission. I pull the piano from where 
it has been for more years than I've been alive and I struggle to 
push it across the living room floor. I don't stop there. I turn the 
corner and push it right out the door and onto the porch. I stop only 
to lock the door and replace the key to its hiding place. Then I get 
to pushing again. I push it into the field where I used to catch 
lightning bugs. I push it into what used to be my uncle's yard and 
where he used to keep his killer dog, Stetson, who liked only me 
and used to eat the eggs I couldn't clean off my plate in the morn- 
ing. Stetson was destructive and dangerous. He broke every chain 
they put around him and had the strength to push several pounds of 
bricks from his way. I loved Stetson and quickly became unafraid of 
him. I wish he could see me now. I push the old antique wall piano 
past where I used to catch the school bus and on down the down- 
ward sloping road. 

By now it has momentum. I'm not doing much work at all. I 
point the thing into the path of the creek where my dad used to 
catch crayfish as a boy and I let it go. It felt so good. It felt so good 



16 



seeing that piano that was never mine fly into the rushing water and 
break. It made a loud sound but not at all like one in the cartoons. 

My mission was over. They'd never know it had been me. I 
loved the piano best; save perhaps for my younger cousin Lauren 

who used to play when I was no longer the new, adorable, fascinat- 
ing grandchild. But she had her own piano now. This would be the 
biggest scandal Raceland, Kentucky had ever seen, with its two 
stoplights and high school comprised of only three hallways and a 
cafeteria. Is that enough, though? Will my anger fade? 



17 



The Wisherman 

Stephen Mosca 

One bright morning, a young man was walking down the 
beach and wishing that he had a mate to share his day with. The 
waves broke to his side producing their perpetual rhythmic white 
noise, and the sunlight would occasionally catch drops of flying 
spray which would sparkle like shards of the purest leaded crystal, 
ablaze from within. As he strolled along he wandered rather close 
to the incoming surf such that, at its zenith, the thinning water would 
reach to the very edges of his bare feet before retreating to their 
own element, the great Mother Sea. While he was thinking about 
his loneliness and walking close to the cool surf, a fish suddenly 
leapt out of an incoming wave and onto the sand before his very 
path. Had he not noticed the beached creature by the thrashing 
motions it made he might have easily stepped over it and walked 
on, none the wiser. But he did see the fish, and he stopped dead in 
his tracks to gaze down upon it. 

"Please, throw me back into the sea," the fish implored, 
twisting itself to look up at the man. The young man, almost struck 



dumb by this apparition, slowly stooped to pick up the fish in his 
hand and, straightening, examined it closely. He had never heard of 
a talking fish before, and this one looked no different from the 
countless others like it he had seen in the baskets of the village 
fishermen after a fruitful day with their nets. 

"Please, throw me back into the sea," the fish repeated, 
pleadingly. 

"I would throw you back into the sea, but I have no one else 
for company and would like to have a companion with whom to 
pass the time. As you can speak, won't you consider staying with 
me a while?" asked the young man as he regained his wits as well as 
his former pace. 

"Oh, I could not do such a thing and keep my life," replied the 
fish. "But 1 will offer you something in return for my release." 

"What can you offer?" asked the man, with a look of skepti- 
cism painted across his broad, tanned face. 

"If you throw me back into the water right now, I will grant 
you three wishes," claimed the fish, who was by now looking back 
and forth from the man's face to the sea with a very thirsty and 
desperate expression on its scaly face. Seeing that the fish was in 
dire straights from being out of its element, the man figured he had 
little to lose and agreed, throwing the fish into the water with a 
careless toss, never breaking his slow but steady stride down the 
sun-drenched beach. 

"Three wishes indeed!" the man said aloud to himself. "I wish 



19 



I would meet a woman instead of a talking fish." 

No sooner had he uttered this remark than an attractive 
woman came into his view, walking towards him over the sand in a 
direction that would carry her path over his at somewhat the same 
moment in time. The man blinked a few times, thinking he may have 
been imagining this sudden vision, but the woman kept approaching, 
becoming more real, and more beautiful, as they closed on each 
other with each successive step. She wore a light colored, sleeve- 
less summer dress which, when blown back by the incoming sea 
breeze, pressed tightly against her body, revealing a shapely and 
athletic form. Her hair was long and black and was also blown 
carelessly by the wind, though, he thought, in a most fetching 
manner. Her face was beautiful to behold, her eyes large, green and 
sparkling, her skin supple and pure, her lips like ripe red fruit. She 
was bare footed and her legs were beautifully tapered and tan. Her 
gaze met his as they approached each other. The man was riveted 
as much by her beauty as by her sudden appearance before him. 
As he was stunned into silence, it seemed quite fortunate that it was 
she who spoke first. 

"Hello." Her voice was penetratingly clear and gentle at 
once. "Do you mind if I walk with you awhile? It's a beautiful day 
and I would very much enjoy the company of someone to share it 
with." 

"Well, no, not at all. It would be my pleasure to have you join 



20 



me. I was just wishing for someone to enjoy the day with, myself." 
And so they walked and talked down the glittering sand until 
the sun set low and burnished the sky with ever deepening violet 
hues. In that time, it became abundantly clear that each so enjoyed 
the company of the other that, from that afternoon on, they spent all 
their future days together. 

After a while, a certain routine developed in their lives. The 
man noticed that the woman had some very definite ideas about 
what the man should and should not be doing and had no trouble 
telling him so. It got so that, at one point, the man remembered 
how he had met this women and secretly cursed that awful fish. Ah, 
the fish! He had forgotten all about it up till now but when he did 
remember it, he also remembered that he had wished to meet this 
woman, and just as the fish had promised, he had. So, again, 
figuring that he had nothing to lose, he turned towards the sea and 
said aloud: "Fish, if you're able to hear me, I ask you for a second 
wish. I wish that my woman would not have her own opinions, but 
that she always accept mine as her own." 

He stood there for a long moment, feeling somewhat foolish. 
Then, with a shrug of resignation, he returned to the home they had 
made together. When he arrived, he did not find there what he had 
expected. Instead of his things placed neatly where the woman 
usually preferred them, they were scattered about haphazardly. 
When he searched for her near her sewing basket or out in the 
garden, she was not to be found. He looked all about and finally, 

21 



after wandering down to the old pier, found her drinking rum and 
telling bawdy tales at the old sailor's pub. 

"What are you doing here?" he inquired of her with a tone of 
some surprise. 

"I felt like having a drink or three and breathing the ocean 
breeze," she replied as naturally as if that is what she had always 
done. Thinking this not to be an entirely bad thing, the young man 
joined her and they drank and told stories with their new friends 
well into the next morning. From the fine stupor they had acquired, 
they proceeded to sleep in the warm, snug sand until the sun's 
morning rays met their closed eyelids. They awoke slowly, stretch- 
ing out the kinks in their bones. 

"What shall we eat for breakfast, my love?" the young man 
asked his mate. 

"Oh, I don't care. Whatever you feel like having is fine with 
me." 

So, the young man went about conjuring up an idea and then 
a plan and then had only to execute it, which he did, and soon they 
were eating a morning meal of crab meat and bread. The woman 
seemed happy enough just to be with him so that nothing else 
mattered to her and not a single complaint was heard, though he 
found the crab difficult to eat and the bread quite stale. 

Well, it went on like this for some time. Every decision that 
had to be made, and there were many of them, was of no matter to 
the woman. Each and every decision, major and minor alike, was 

22 



deferred to what the man said he wanted. There came times when 
the man, for reasons of fatigue or disinterest or lack of preference, 
would find it quite bothersome to have to make each and every 
decision, but he knew that if he did not make one, one would simply 
not be made. So, as it happened, he found himself almost in the 
same condition as before, where he felt very much alone in the 
world, responsible for all that he did, plus all that his companion did 
as well. Eventually, this task became a burden upon him which 
seemed to grow in weight and dragged more heavily upon him with 
each passing day. It got so he no longer enjoyed the companion- 
ship of the woman, as there was nothing to her that he could 
contest. And because of the lack of mental discourse, there soon 
developed a lack of physical intercourse as well until any pleasure 
he once had from her was now only a distant and fading memory. 
His morose state caused him to lose interest in everything, even 
food, and so he seldom ate anymore and began to feel ill and began 
to look thin and pale. 

One day, after having made all decisions big and small, and 
feeling like this difficult state of affairs would never cease to be, he 
remembered he had but one wish left from the fish. He considered 
his circumstances and gazed idly at his mate in a calculating manner. 
He construed there a being with no mind of her own and thus, to 
him, little value. That's it, then, one last decision; he would wish her 
gone, he thought. But before he did, he turned to his mate and 
asked her point blank: 

23 



"Do you think I should wish you away, and return to what I 
was before we came together?" 

"I think you should do what you desire to do. If you care for 
me, do not wish it so, and if you no longer want me, then follow 
your own wish." 

Befuddled by this conundrum, the man sat and sulked and 
pondered. 

"I wish I never saw that damn fish!" he thought to himself and 
then, in that very instant, he found himself walking along the beach 
on a beautiful sunny day, all alone, watching the sun catch the 
bursting sea spray and turning it into prisms of colorful light that 
would rain down around him in a most delightful way. He strayed 
closer to the edges of the foamy surf, and as he did a fish leapt out 
of the roiling waters and landed before his naked feet. So absorbed 
was he in watching the beautiful display of nature that he never 
noticed the frantic motions of the beached creature and didn't 
realize that it had landed right beneath his very next footfall. As he 
pressed the fish into the sand with the entire weight of his body 
concentrated into that single stride, he was thinking only of how 
much he wished he had a companion with which to share such a 
glorious day. 



24 



Out of Sight, Out of Mind 

Karen Harrell 

I'm so tired and I hate riding the bus. I have gotten to 
the point that I don't look at anyone anymore; people's faces 
are melding together like melted taffy. Besides, there is no point 
to discerning friend or foe in a crowd of tired, hot, frustrated 
people. 

The bus is late, as usual. I try to get a seat on the left 
side of the bus, towards the front. It's easier for me to see my 
stop coming up, especially when I forget my glasses. And, of 
course, I've forgotten them again. My trip is usually 45 minutes 
in normal traffic, but today the bus seems to stop like an eleva- 
tor carrying a sadistic, button-mashing child. Hopefully no one 
will sit next to me, but I don't have that kind of luck. 

The man who sits next to me looks familiar in the small 
glance I give him before turning back to count stops. I can feel 
him staring at me and my neck is crawling. I look over at him 
and smile my "I should know you but I don't" smile, in case he 
is someone from long ago. His face is still recognizable, almost 

25 



like someone I worked with or knew from long ago. I can smell 
his sweat, but it is clean and has an underlying scent I know 
from somewhere. 

He is smiling back at me and he asks me about my day. I 
tell him it was fine and leave it at that. I find that I have a face 
that invites crazy strangers to talk to me, whether I want them 
to or not. I hate talking to people on the bus; the bus should be 
as silent as a library. I turn back to the window, so he gives up. 

Finally my stop is here and I have to go through the 
excuse me dance that is inevitable when getting out of an inside 
seat. But, to my surprise, the man is also getting off at this stop. 
As I step down from the bus I notice that he is standing at the 
corner, almost like he is waiting for me. I ignore him and start 
my short walk home. I can't wait to sit down, crack open a 
beer, maybe read the paper. In the back of my mind I can hear 
his footsteps with me but not beside me. This feels like a trip 
I've been on before and for some reason I feel the need to look 
back at him. I still can't place his face, but his clothes are 
familiar. Maybe he's a regular customer from work; I may have 
sold him his shirt. Or maybe he's a new neighbor; I've been too 
preoccupied to notice anyone moving in on my street. 

We reach a street that is hard to cross during traffic, so 
we stand next to each other waiting for a break in the parade of 
cars. His scent smells even more familiar, that mixture of fresh 
sweat and shaving cream. I finally figure out that familiar scent 

26 



from the bus, he uses the same laundry detergent I use. For 
some reason this makes me want to kiss him, hold him, feed 
him, anything to keep him near me. 

We cross the street and he is walking beside me. He 
holds open the gate for me as I dig through my purse for the 
house keys. I need to tell him to leave, but something stops me. 
I turn to look at his face and that urge to kiss him comes over 
me again. He looks like he belongs here, like he has always been 
here. I start to cry when it hits me; he's my husband and I love 
him. He takes my hand and walks me to the door. 



27 



that's just chaos 

Vicky Smith 

The rain slapped like the wet rag of a bitter maid against 
the dirty window. He slouched in the dilapidated armchair, and 
behind him the dingy curtains slouched from a crooked metal 
bar. A cracked mug of something gelatinized on the coffee table 
nursing a broken leg. A cigarette burned its filter in a choked 
green ashtray. The smoke limped upwards to join the cloud 
writhing with dust mites just below the sagging tiled ceiling. It 
was mid afternoon, but who cares about such things as that? 

The room was tiny and the hues of emesis and urine — 
the walls and the furniture and the yellowing ceiling- cast a 
sickly air to the place. Everything was fading and he could only 
see black and white, by this point, after the years had staggered 
by with no hello or goodbye. 

The same songs played over and over on his tiny alarm 
clock radio; the time was wrong by seasons but he didn't notice, 
or if he did sometimes by random acknowledgement he didn't 
give a damn anyway. 

28 



She'd left him years ago, taken the kid too, and he 
called this peace, because nothing moved but specks in the 
cigarette smoke. Even the mangy dog he named "dog" didn't 
limp around anymore; it'd died three days ago and he knew it 
wasn't just sleeping over there curled up and emaciated in the 
shadows of the corner, but he couldn't smell it yet and he was 
grateful it no longer stood by the door for hours, waiting for 
him to by chance let it outside. 

He lived efficiently, except for his smoking habit; he had 
to make effort to keep up his supply but he sent for them over 
the mail, boxes at a time, and paid with moldy cash he kept 
stuffed in the seat of the armchair. He didn't bathe, he rarely 
ate, and he never moved unless he had to. He slept in his tired 
old armchair and only woke up by accident, when closing his 
eyes didn't make him go to sleep again after a while. Then he 
stared woodenly straight ahead and made a point not to see or 
think about anything until sleep took him again. He chewed on 
his fingernails until he had to eat or the discomfort of hunger 
would be more bothersome than walking to the stained and 
festering kitchen. He pissed in an old mason jar on the grimy 
tiled floor beside the armchair; he aimed from where he was and 
sometimes he missed and sometimes he didn't and he never 
cared much. He was old so he didn't shit too often; when he did 
he did it in the scratched metal dog bowl so he wouldn't have to 
feed it. Old age had taken his senses years ago so his only 

29 



discomforts were the occasional need to eat and those horrible 
moments when he started thinking again. 

He used to be a poet; he used to be an artist; he used to 
be a father; he used to be a husband. He used to be many things 
but now he was just used up as he sat there passively and 
waited for time to come get him. It was only the rain that tried 
to get in. 

He lived out there on Tick road, an old dirt road out in 
the woods of some forlorn county lapping up against civiliza- 
tion. He was forgotten except by his wife, who hated him — 
he'd beat her and then his son until they both curled up and lost 
consciousness in the corner. She tried to forget him but the belt 
he beat her across the face with left scars, and she'd broken 
many mirrors in her day but the image wouldn't break; it just 
fractured and threw up a distorted reflection in puddles and side 
mirrors when she forgot to not look. The son killed himself, 
hanged himself with his daddy's special belt he found by acci- 
dent in his mama's old trunk when he was 23, and that was ten 
years ago. The son was a poet too; he had a red headed girl he 
knocked up when they were both too young and a green eyed 
daughter named Thyme. Neither had met the old man; the son 
had run away when he was 13, stole his daddy's pea green 
Chevy, knocked his mama unconscious while he cried and took 
her with him because by then she was too weak and beat to 
leave the old man — he'd saved her from being a prostitute all 

30 



her life and if he told her once, he'd told her a thousand times- 
she wasn't worth shit, a cheap whore like her deserved it, he'd 
paid 35 bucks to fuck her because she had such a pretty face 
beneath the cake makeup. 

And so the son hit her with a pan wrapped in towels and 
took her with him — strapped a belt around her legs so she 
couldn't run back when she came to and wrapped her up warm 
and tight in a quilt, tucked her in the passenger seat and put the 
seat belt around her. He didn't know how to drive back then but 
desperation teaches many things on the fly — he drove well and 
far and together they forgot everything but time and its mercy. 
That corner in his daddy's house had seemed like a grave and 
everyone knows graves are forever. But it wasn't, they never 
got over that, they spent every New Year's Eve together and 
cried with a joy that hurt when the ball fell on the black and 
white TV in her aluminum trailer. He was a good kid, he only 
drank on the weekends when he didn't have to work and loved 
his girl and his daughter. He never wore a belt; for ten years he 
never wore a belt and maybe the shock of seeing one in his hand 
again was what got him, reminded him who his daddy was and 
scared him so much he got hung up on it. 

His girl cried every day for a few years and neglected 
Thyme, but she got over it and married some guy named Braun; 
they had a kid together, a boy, and the boy and Thyme never 
got along but that's just how kids are — the boy didn't under- 

31 



stand where Thyme was coming from; she'd been the one to 
find her daddy swinging from leather and she had nightmares 
and woke up screaming, but her mama never came to soothe 
her. Braun wore a belt and he hit her with it when the boy 
pushed her and she feared him, and when it really hurt she 
wished she'd find Braun swinging from his belt and told her 
mama so. Her mama slapped her and cried all night. 

Thyme got older and ran away when she was 13, like 
her dead daddy. She had tits and hips by then and she used them 
to get around and get what she needed — she never sold her 
cunt but she always promised to, and that little lie got her where 
she wanted to go. 

She wandered and was wild, got into writing poetry and 
drawing some on a pad she carried all the time with the nub of a 
pencil she took from a cheap motel. She worked her way into 
more obscure and forgotten places, and wandered into the 
woods one day to be alone and think about her daddy. The 
woods reminded her of him. As she walked a foul smell 
knocked her gagging to her knees. 

Thyme was the one who found the old man, sitting and 
staring in his house of shit and decay. He saw her walk in, the 
old whore that had left him so many jaded years ago, and it got 
his mind going. He lunged for her, calling her an ungrateful 
whore in his dry cracked voice he hadn't used in years and 
trying to take off his belt with his weak old hands. 

32 



Thyme was a street girl and a little sensitive to being 
called a whore, because she never sold her cunt, only promised 
to. She carried a knife with her tucked up under her bra strap 
between her tits and as she gagged at his stench she stabbed him 
with it, right in his frail old chest. 

Thyme got him all right, and she took his moldy cash 
too; a few years later she went to visit her grandma and told her 
about the pissy old man and her grandma called it chaos, that's 
just chaos ~ they smoked cigarettes together and sat at her 
grandma's old red card table watching the black and white TV 
on the kitchen counter. It was New Year's Eve and they 
watched the ball drop and Thyme's grandma cried and said it 
was because she was so beautiful, Thyme was so beautiful. 



33 



Five Minutes 

Bianca Bury-Rodriguez 

Once upon a time, my parents thought that they were 
gonna die. When the Berlin Wall came down, they took their 
first sigh of relief. The Russkies had been defeated; we were no 
longer at war. 

When September 1 1 th happened, that opened up a new 
can of worms. I hadn't realized how big it was until my parents 
sat me down and told me all kinds of emergency plans. 
"Heather, when you hear the explosion, you have five minutes." 

Five minutes. 

I was walking home from school, which is a good half- 
hour away, when I heard it. I had just crossed the point of no 
return. I had five minutes. 

One-one-thousand-one, One-one-thousand-two, One- 
one-thousand-three. 

I was running like a sonnuva bitch. My English book 
weighed me down, all of the authors in it (most of them dead) 
not giving a damn if I had to survive. Their words were already 
written down, they'd already survived. 

34 



One-one-thousand-ten, One-one-thousand-eleven. 

I want to be a writer. I've been writing for at least five 
years now. My friends online think my stuff is really good. 
Some of them even know what I look like. As cheesy as it may 
sound, maybe I "will" survive. 

One-one-thousand-thirty, One-one-thousand-thirty-one. 

Nobody was coming outside. That was good and bad. 
Good because no one's enough of an idiot to make the mistake 
of coming outside and saying something incredibly stupid, like, 
"What's going on?" Bad because I couldn't run to the nearest 
house and get inside. 

One-one-thousand-fifty, One-one-thousand- fifty-one, 
Those al-Qaeda sons of bitches. 

One-one-thousand-seventy, One-one-thousand-seventy- 
one, One-one-thousand-seventy-two, One-one-thousand- 
seventy-three. 

They aren't Muslims. Hell, they aren't even human 

One-one-thousand-ninety-five, One-one-thousand- 
ninety-six, One-one-thousand-ninety-seven. 

Did you see the carnage on TV when the WTC fell? 

One-one-thousand-one-twelve, the news footage 
showed people jumping from the 89th floor. Those sick sons of 
bitches. 

One-one-thousand-one-three-one, One-one-thousand- 
one-three-two, One-one-thousand-one-three-three. 



35 



What's today? Is that gonna be another national holi- 
day? 9/1 1 was bad. The news footage for the next week and 
then in 2003, was just bad taste. 

One-one-thousand-one-five-nine, One-one-thousand- 
one-sixty. 

The Reporters love the scent of dead bodies, don't they? 
They're all over homicides and tragedies like flies. Makes you 
wonder who is worse Al-Queda for thinking up this shit, or for 
the media to enjoy the ratings. 

One-one-thousand-one-eight-nine, One-one-thousand- 
one-nine-oh. 

Damn them, damn them, damn them. Why the hell are 
they doing this to me? I'm American, does that give them the 
fucking right to kill me? Just because I'm not all about Allah? I 
believe in God; they THINK they're following Allah. We 
should be on the same side, right? 

One-one-thousand-two-oh-six. 

God wouldn't want this, I sure as fuck don't. 

One-one-thousand-two-three-one. One-one-thousand- 
two-three-two. 

My legs hurt, my lungs hurt, my head hurts, and if I stop 
running, I'm sure my heart'll hurt. Stupid fuckers. 

One-one-thousand-two-six-one. 

I can see my house from here, but my legs want to give 
out. I slip in a pothole, and DAMN, it hurts, but I have to keep 

36 



going, because if I don't. I'm gonna die. and God. I don't 
wanna die. I hate al-Qaeda. I hate running. I hate dirty bombs... 

One-one-thousand-t\vo-se\ en-one. 

All I really, really hate is DYING! 

One-one-thousand-two-eight-nine. 

My house! I can make it. I can make it! My legs seem to 
have gotten a second wind from somewhere, desperation, most 
likely. 

One-one-thousand-two-nine-one. 

What's sixty times five? Three hundred? I can do it. I 
can do it. Mom's car isn't there. 

One-one-thousand-two-nine-two. 

What The fuck? There's a cloud ... a big, green one. 

one-one-thousand-two-nine-seven. 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It's not nerve gas! I 
don't care what color Dad said nerve gas was. that sure as Fuck 
isn't it! 

One-one-thousand-two-nine-eight. 

My limbs are seizing up. My hand's on the doorknob. 
DAMN. 

One-one-thousand-three-hundred. 

I love you Mom. 



37 



Don't Tell Mommy 

Amy Limpert 

Nicole was supposed to be in her room getting dressed. 
She really did not want to give her mother anything else to worry 
about, but she had to scratch. Her entire body was itching. No 
matter how much or how hard she scratched, it still yearned for 
just a little more. Nicole tilted her head listening to her mother's 
shoes as they came clicking down the hallway. 

"Pumpkin, are you dressed?" Jean shouted, as she 
approached her daughter's room. "I need to fix your hair and 
we have to leave shortly!" 

"Why aren't you dressed?" Jean franticly said. "It's ten 
after nine and we have to leave the house in fifteen minutes. We 
cannot be late! I told you over and over how important this day 
is to me." As Jean was hollering, she noticed Nicole clawing her 
nails up and down her arms. 



38 






"Nicole, come over here," Jean said as she began to 
examine the red bumps that had mysteriously appeared on her 
daughter overnight. 

"I put my dress on, and then I had to take it off because 
I felt itchy everywhere. I have been scratching and scratching, 
but they just won't stop." Nicole moaned. "Did those bed bugs 
bite me? Why are there red spots? Am I sick? How come they 
won't stop itching? What do...?" 

" Nicole! It's all right. It's not from the bed bugs, and 
you're not sick. It looks to me like you have hives." 

"Hives? Like Grandpa's bee' hives? How did. . ." 

"No sweetheart, not bee' hives," Jean chuckled. "Hives 
are the name of the bumps that you have. You must have had 
an allergic reaction to something. The bumps will go away in a 
couple of days. I have some cream in my medicine cabinet. We 
can put some ointment on them, and then they won't itch as 
much. I'll be right back." 

Nicole sat on her bed, and looked up toward the ceiling 
where her white four- poster bed used to connect to a canopy. 
She had really liked having a canopy bed. When her mom 
brought home the new bed, she told Nicole that the man from 
the store said that it was a genuine princess bed. Right now, 
however, it didn't seem like a princess bed. 

39 



A few weeks ago, Nicole had been standing on her bed 
and thought that she could swing from bar to bar the way she 
did on the monkey bars on the playground at school. Her mom 
was pretty mad especially because she had ripped the towel bar 
out of the bathroom wall only days before, while trying to 
swing from the bathtub to the toilet. 

"When are you going to stop swinging on everything?" 
Jean yelled. "This house is not a jungle gym!" 

Nicole was not able to give her mother an answer. 
Since discovering that she could swing out into the bathroom 
by throwing a towel up over the shower rod, Nicole had dedi- 
cated a lot of time in finding other things she could swing on. 
Sadly, her pretty white eyelet canopy came crashing down when 
the first plastic support rod burst from her weight. 

After a few moments of reminiscing over how her now 
destroyed princess bed came to its present state, Nicole heard 
the clacking of her mother's shoes getting louder as the sound 
approached her bedroom. 

"Are you nervous about the wedding?" Jean said softly, 
as she sat down next to Nicole on the bed. 

"No, I just want to make sure that I do a good job." 
Nicole smiled as she looked up at her mother. "Mom, you look 
really, really pretty." 

40 



"Thank-you, Pumpkin. "If you are nervous, it's O.K. 
You can tell me and we can talk about it. I know that it is a big 
step for both of us, but we'll help each other through it, right?" 

She smiled, nodded her head in agreement, and reached 
her arms up to give her mom a hug. 

Jean was driving her 82' black Capri faster than usual, 
trying to get to her wedding on time. The radio played softly in 
the background. Nicole sat buckled up in the back seat looking 
out the window. Jean was always just a few minutes behind 
schedule, so naturally that meant Nicole was late for most 
everything. Nicole often ate her breakfast in the car as Jean 
raced to get her to school on time. She didn't mind being late 
that much, because going fast meant she would be able to feel 
the road bumps really good. 

Jean reached for the dial on the radio and a man's voice 
roared out. 

"Trapper Jack is back. It's 9:35 am, and you guys 
better get off your seat and move your feet. This gorgeous 
sunny morning won't be here for long. There's a eighty percent 
chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms. A ten set music sweep 
after the break." 

"Oh no, I hope the rain holds off until after the wed- 
ding," Jean wailed. 

41 



"Why? I love the rain. It's so much fun. When it rains 
at Grandma's house, I put on my bathing suit, go outside, and 
dance on the driveway." 

"Well, that does sound like fun, but it is supposed to be 
really bad luck if it rains on your wedding day," Jean wailed, her 
howl in unison with that of the tire screech as she made a sharp 
turn into the parking lot. 

Grabbing Nicole's hand, Jean quickly walked toward the 
center of a little park where a white wood Victorian gazebo 
held her family, a pastor, and Tony. 

"Mom, I'm starting to itch again," she said, bending 
down to run her chewed fingernails forcefully up and down her 
legs. 

"Today is very important to mommy. Please do every- 
thing just like we practiced. We will not be here long. After- 
wards, you can take off your dress and we can add more cream. 
You'll be fine, O.K." Jean again took hold of her daughter's 
hand and led her towards the ceremony. 

Standing in the gazebo, Tony and Jean exchanged their 
wedding vows. To Jean's right side stood her daughter. As the 
flower girl, she was the only member of the wedding party. It 
was a very small wedding. Nicole held herself still, closed her 
eyes and tried everything she could think of not to scratch. The 

42 



long sheer sleeve dress with it's ruffled neck and matching 
tights that she had been forced to wear made her itch even 
more. Hoping the dress would help out and do a little of the 
work, she began to move from side to side, arching her shoul- 
ders back and forth. No luck! She lifted her tiny patent leather 
shoe and ran it down the shin of her other leg. Oh, that felt so 
good! As she quickly switched her flower basket from one 
hand to the other in an effort to itch, several of the flowers 
tumbled out onto the floor. Jean flashed her a warning glance. 
Nicole looked from her mother to Tony, who shook his head as 
if to say "No more!" 

"It's almost over, honey," Grandma whispered in her 
ear. "You can be a big girl and wait just a few more minutes for 
mommy to finish." 

Nicole stood still for mommy. 

Trying hard to forget the perpetual itching, Nicole let 
her mind wander back to the first time she had met Tony. She 
had been in her room having a tea party with her two best 
friends Allie and Jack. The three friends had just invited Mr. 
Toad, the bee, and Big Bunny to join them, when Jean came in 
and asked if they could talk. 

"Nicole, I have a very special friend of mine that I 
would like you to meet. His name is Tony. He is very nice, and 

43 



is excited to meet you! We are going to meet him tomorrow 
night at 7 o'clock for dinner. How does that sound?" 

"O.K. Where are we going? Can we go to Chucky 
Cheese?" 

"No, we are going to a nice restaurant. You and I can 
go to Chucky Cheese another time." 

"Can Jack and Allie come too? Please! Can they? 
Pleeeeeeeease!" 

"We'll see," said Jean letting a little laugh escape. "I'll 
ask Tony if he minds if we have another two join us." 

As it turned out, Tony picked an especially nice restau- 
rant for dinner. The Flight Deck, rated among the city's top 
five places to dine, was located directly across the street from 
an airport. Using the location to its advantage, the restaurant 
had incorporated several headsets that would allow the patrons 
to listen to the conversations in the control tower. 

Jack spilled grape juice all over Allie's dress, so Jean 
and Nicole arrived a little later then expected. The hostess led 
them to a table near one of the stone fireplaces where Tony sat 
waiting for the remainder of his party. He immediately pre- 
sented Jean with a bouquet of flowers and gave Nicole a music 
box. Tony reached across the table and cupped Nicole's little 
hand in his, as he introduced himself. 

44 



"It is so nice to finally meet you, Nicole. I have heard 
wonderful things about you, but you're even prettier than the 
picture your mom showed me." 

Nicole smiled and thanked Tony for his present. She 
looked at the silver design that was engraved on the surface of 
the little piano. She loved music boxes. In fact, she already had 
a small collection started. After she had fully inspected her new 
treasure, Nicole politely introduced Tony to her two guests. 
Tony quickly shook both of their hands. Without speaking to 
either Jack or Allie, Tony picked up his menu. 

After dinner, Nicole, Allie and Jack sat in Jean's car. 
They could see Jean standing outside talking to Tony. 

"So what do you guys think of him?" Nicole said. "I 
think he's real nice. I like my music box. Do you want to guess 
what song it plays?" Nicole tipped the music box over so they 
could try to identify the tune. 

"I don't know. I didn't like how he tried to order for 
everyone. He seems sort of bossy," Allie said as she looked out 
the window at Jean. 

"I didn't want to eat my potato. I only like mashed 
potatoes, " Jack exclaimed as he shrugged his shoulders. 

Nicole became quiet and stared at her mother. She then 
focused her eyes on the pleats of her royal blue velvet dress. 
Quickly shaking her head, she turned toward her friends. 

45 



"She liked those flowers!" Nicole said convincingly. 

The memory of that first meeting faded as the wedding 
ceremony finally came to an end. Nicole rode with her grand- 
parents back to their house. A reception had been planned to 
take place in their backyard. However, the celebration ended 
abruptly in the early afternoon when the predicted thunder- 
storms poured down on the outside festivities. 

Against the wishes of his bride and family, Tony cursed 
the rain and remained outside cleaning up. Once inside the 
house, Nicole went to the window that overlooks the backyard 
and watched Tony as he slammed down one plate on top of 
another. 

Nicole spent the next week with her grandparents, while 
her mother and Tony went to Hawaii for their honeymoon. 
Jean was right. Nicole's hives disappeared in days, so it made 
her visit much more pleasant. She loved spending time with 
her grandparents. They helped Jean raise her because Nicole's 
parents had divorced before she was a year old. 

Nicole went to Apple Falls Elementary, which was right 
down the road from her grandparent's house. She walked to 
their house everyday after school, and stayed until Jean picked 
her up after work. 

That week, Grandma made Nicole her favorite lunch, a 
grilled cheese sandwich, a pickle on the side, milk with straw- 

46 



berry Quick and iced animal crackers for dessert. Grandpa 
took her fishing that week as well. Grandma and Grandpa liked 
Allie and Jack, so Nicole was able to play with them often. 
They went on several bike rides, played on the swings, and had 
a tea party. Jack complained about having a tea party, but after 
Grandma gave him cookies with his tea he didn't mind so much. 

After the honeymoon, Tony began moving his things 
into the apartment. He didn't have many boxes, so it did not 
take long. Grandpa offered to help Tony move the boxes with 
his truck, but Tony said he and Jean could move the boxes 
themselves. 

The daily routine quickly resumed itself. Nicole was 
allowed to watch her shows before she went to sleep. Bedtime 
consisted of a tuck in, a story, a kiss, and on very special nights 
a song. There were times that even after Nicole was supposed 
to be asleep, she would creep into the living room and complain 
of insomnia, stomach pains, or hunger. Sometimes, she just 
wanted her mommy to come and lay down beside her for a little 
while. Tony always offered his advice during these events. 

"When are you coming out? It is past her bedtime. If 
you let her be, she'll go to sleep on her own." Tony would stand 
in the doorway and watch until Jean got up. Sometimes, Jean 
would tell Tony to go and wait for her in the living room. 



47 



However, Tony refused to leave, so eventually Jean would give 
Nicole a kiss and a hug, then walk out of the room. Nicole did 
not understand this. Her mom had always stayed with her 
before. 

"Why does Tony make mommy go away?" Nicole asked 
Jack and Allie. "She used to lay in bed with me all the time." 

"Maybe Tony wants to steal your mommy!" Jack yelled 
at Nicole. His eyes got very big as he thought about what he 
had said. Jack sometimes jumped to conclusions. 

"What do you think, Allie? Do you think that Tony is 
trying to steal my mom from me?" 

Nicole let her head hang. She let out a long sigh, 
allowing her bottom lip to poke out just a bit. Her lips began to 
quiver. A burning sensation formed in her eyes as she fought 
the tears from coming. Allie, seeing how upset Nicole was, 
gently stroked her head. 

"Nicole, I don't think that Tony is trying to steal your 
mom. Your mommy loves you. She would never leave you. 
Not for anything!" Allie said very slowly and calmly. Allie and 
Jack looked at each other, then back at Nicole. 

After living in the apartment for several weeks, Tony 
attempted to dictate all of the household activities. Tony 
complained if his wife went out without him. Jean's family and 

48 



friends did not call or visit as much anymore. She did not seem 
to do anything unless it included Tony. Nicole avoided Tony. 
She tried to spend as much time as she could with Jack and 
Allie. Nicole was afraid to play with Jack and Allie near Tony 
because there had been a few occasions when Tony had been 
mean to them. One day, while the three of them were sitting on 
the floor playing. Tony walked by and stepped on Jack's foot. 
Jean saw him do it. 
"Sorry, " he said. "It was an accident." 

One evening, Nicole was lying on the couch watching 
the television and waiting for her dinner, when Tony walked in 
through the front door and spoke to her. 

"Children should speak to an adult when they see 
them!" Nicole did not know what to say, so she nodded her 
head and pulled the blanket up almost to her eyes. 

The next evening. Nicole was again in the living room 

when Tony arrived at home. 

"Hi Tony!" she stammered, giving a little smile and a 

wave. 

"Nicole, children should say more then "hi" to an adult. 
A child should be polite, look at the adult, say hello, and ask 
them how they are doing." 



49 



"O.K. I'll do it right next time.' 1 

Nicole was nervous, so she practiced the whole next day 
what she would say to Tony when he came home. Tony walked 
through the door. She knew he was coming. She had been 
listening and waiting. 

"Hello Tony! How are you doing?" 

Tony stared down at Nicole. Then he slowly smiled. 

She nervously smiled back at him. "Nicole, children 

should be seen and not heard." 

Nicole sat looking at Tony. She didn"t know what to 
say. Her eyes started to well up with tears. She pulled the 
blanket over her head and softly cried. She pretended that she 
was watching the television, but she knew that he could hear 
her crying. That night when she was in bed she could hear Tony 
and her mom arguing. Even though she had crept off her bed 
and over to the bedroom door, she could not understand what 
they were saying. 

Nicole told Jack and Allie about what had happened. 
They both gave her a big hug and told her that everything 
would be all right. 

"Did you tell your mom what Tony said?" Allie asked. 

"She was in the kitchen making dinner. I think she 



50 



heard him," Nicole answered, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. 
Her nightmares woke her up several times throughout the night. 

"Nicole, maybe Tony is trying to be a good daddy." 
Jack said, lifting his eyebrows and his hands in agreement. 

Nicole really did not know what a good daddy was 
supposed to be like. The only father she had ever known was 
her grandfather and Tony was nothing like him. She listened to 
Jack's advice and tried very hard to be good, but it seemed that 
Tony disliked the way she did most anything. 

Soon, the Thanksgiving holiday came around. Dinner 
was always at Grandma and Grandpa's house, as was every 
other holiday meal. Being the only child at these family func- 
tions, Nicole received most of the attention. She liked that part. 
Her family seemed to really like Tony. He complimented the 
fabulous smells from Grandma's cooking. He talked with 
grandpa about politics. He joined the pre-toast in which he 
sipped on grandpa's favorite drink, Crown and ginger. How- 
ever, every time Nicole looked at Tony, he seemed to be in- 
specting her and scrutinizing all of her actions. 

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, as always. Every- 
one had eaten so much food that it was hard to move. By the 
smiles, the compliments, and the continuing sighs that were 



51 



It was fairly late in the evening by the time the pumpkin 

pie was finished. Nicole needed to be in bed at a reasonable 

hour so Jean asked Tony if he could take her home. Jean 

wanted to stay and help clean up the remanents of their feast. 

Tony glanced over at Nicole, and glared his eyes at her. Then 

he turned back to Jean and smiled.. 

searching for some relief, it appeared that everyone was happy. 

"It would be my pleasure. Nicole, are you ready to go 
home?" 

"No! I don't want to go. I want to stay. Please! I'll 
help clean up. Please!" 

"Jean, Nicole can spend the night here. That way she 
can go and get in bed right now," Grandma said. 

"No. She does not always have to get her way," Jean 
snapped. 

"Nicole, I want you to go home with Tony and get right 
into bed." Jean bent down and kissed her daughter on the head. 
"I will be home shortly and promise to check on you." 

Tony thanked Jean's family for their hospitality. Nicole 
again announced to the room that she wanted to stay, but Jean 
refused to budge on this issue. It was late. 

Nicole threw herself down on the floor and started 
yelling, "I don't want to go. I want to stay. Grandma, please 

52 



let me stay with you." Her face turned red, as she gasped for air 
in between her sobs. "Pleeeeeease, let me staaaaaaaay. 
Pleeeeeeeeease!" She continued to scream, "I... I... don't want 
to goooooooo. Pleeease, let me stay!" 

However, in the end, she had no choice but to leave 
with Tony. 

Tony and Nicole rode through the curves and turns in 
darkness and silence. She could see Tony watching her in the 
rear-view mirror. 

"Nicole, you were a very bad girl today. Your mom and 
your grandparents were very disappointed in your behavior. 
What are we going to do about this?" 

"No! That's not true. I was good." 

Nicole began to pick and bite at her nails. She got very 
quiet, and looked out the window, studying every house on the 
road as they passed by. 

Nicole followed behind Tony as they walked up to their 
apartment building. Tony used his key to unlock the front 
security door. They walked down the hall. The heavy metal 
door collided with its frame and closed. The sound echoed 
through the hallway. Tony opened the door to their apartment 
and let Nicole walk in front of him into the dark apartment. She 
hesitated in the light of the hallway, but he told her to go inside. 

53 



Tony made her stand alone in the total blackness before he 
stepped inside and turned on a light. 

"Nicole, go and get ready for bed. I will come in a few 
minutes." 

"You don't need to tuck me in," Nicole said quickly. 
"Mom said that she'll do it when she comes home." 

"Nicole, I am not coming to tuck you in. Your earlier 
behavior needs to be dealt with. I will be in once I decide in 
what manner that will be done." 

Nicole went into her bedroom and changed into her 
pajamas. As she was about to get into bed Tony came into her 
bedroom. 

"Nicole, you acted terrible at your grandparent's house. 
You were very bad. Everyone, your aunt and uncles, your 
grandparents, your mother and I, talked about how awful you 
were. You have to be taught a lesson so that you will learn how 
to behave. Your family does not want to be around you when 
you misbehave." 

Nicole straightened her body, crossed her arms defiantly 
over her chest, and scrunched up her face. 

"I was not bad. My family does want me to be with 
them. If I wasn't a good girl, mom would have told me." 



54 



"Nicole, you were bad, very bad, and you will be pun- 
ished. I want you to lie on your stomach and pull down your 
pajama bottoms. ,, 

Nicole felt her whole body begin to tremble. Her mouth 
became very dry. Her stomach became queasy. Her heart felt 
like it was going to beat out of her chest. She wished her 
mother would come home. She sat frozen, unable to move. 

"Nicole! Are you being bad right now?" Tony shouted. 
"I think I told you to do something. Now be good, and do 
what I told you to do!" 

Nicole crouched her head. She focused her eyes on her 
little stuffed bee that was lying on her pillows. Slowly she 
crawled off her bed. 

Tony took off his leather belt and folded it in the palm of 
his hand. He raised it up in the air. CRACK! Tony lashed the 
belt hard across Nicole's backside. Nicole screamed out in 
pain. 

"Nicole, I am going to hit you seven times for each 
person that you misbehaved in front of today. Maybe this will 
help you remember to act like a good little girl." 

His voice sounded very strange to her. It was louder 
and more rushed than usual. Tears streamed down her face. 
She screamed out for her mother when words escaped through 
the sobs. 

55 



Tonv did not apply the promised amount of punishment. 
He told Nicole that he was going to stop because her mother 
had asked him to have the punishment over with by the time she 
got home. However, Nicole did not know the difference. In her 
mind, she would remember the number seven. 

Tony slowly wound his belt back through his belt loops. 
He checked his watch and glanced over at Nicole. She was 
humped over in a swell of pain and confusion. Her pajamas 
were soaking wet from her tears. 

"Nicole! . . .Nicole!" Tony yelled. "I want you to end this 
crying right now and get into bed." 

Choking on her tears, Nicole allowed her body to unfold 
from its crumpled position. She slowly pulled back the covers 
and crawled in. Tony turned off the light and sat at the edge of 
her bed. 

"Nicole, you made me do what I did tonight," Tony said 
softly. "If you are a good girl from now on this will not happen 
again. If you tell anyone about this, you will not be able to live 
here anymore. Your mother will not want you, just like your 
father did not want you. She does not want a bad little girl. 
Your mother will be home soon, and I want you to be asleep 
before she gets home." 



56 



Nicole continued to cry, choking on her tears. She slid 
her whole body down the bed underneath the covers and cried 
softly for a long time. She could tell that Tony was still there. 
Finally, he got up and walked slowly out of her room. 

Some time later, the front door opened and she heard 
her mother's voice. 

"So how did everything go with Nicole? Is she in 
bed?" 

"Everything went fine." 

Nicole heard her mother coming towards her room. She 
was still curled up in a tight ball facing the wall, with the blan- 
kets pulled up over her head. Jean tiptoed beside the bed. 
Under the covers, Nicole's eyes were wide open. 

"Nicole, what are you going to do? You have to tell 
your mom!" Allie screamed. 

"If you don't tell her, then I'm going to!" Jack added 
rebelliously and started to march toward the door of Nicole's 
bedroom. 

"No you can't tell. If you do, she will think I'm bad. I 
wasn't supposed to tell anyone. No one can tell." Nicole 
looked both of her friends in the eye. "You have to promise 
that you won't tell." 



57 



Jack and Allie promised, but they were afraid for Nicole. 
They wanted to help, but they didn't know what to do. They 
wanted to tell, but what if Tony was right. What if Nicole's 
mother really didn't want her? Jack and Allie always thought 
Nicole was a good girl, but what if she wasn't? 

Over the next few weeks, Nicole's disposition began to 
decline. She was not her usual happy self. She did not have 
much to say over dinner. Tony, however, chattered away. 
Nicole did not watch any television. The only thing that made 
her happy was to play with Jack and Allie. She did not ask her 
mother to sing for her, or to lie in bed with her. Jean kept 
asking her if she felt all right and feeling her forehead for any 
signs of a temperature. 

One night, after Nicole had gone to bed, Jean decided to 
wash some clothes. She sorted the dirty clothes, and quickly 
hurried to the building's community laundry room. Nicole was 
awake, lying in bed. She had heard the front door close. 

A few moments later, Tony came into her room. He sat 
at the foot of her bed as he had been doing whenever such an 
opportunity arose. 

"Nicole, you're not asleep are you?" Tony asked quietly. 
"Your mother and I were talking and she still thinks that you're 



58 



a bad little girl. Everyone can see what a rotten little brat you 
are." He hissed. "Nicole, your mommy doesn't love you any- 
more. She doesn't want you. Nobody wants you." 

Nicole began to cry, as she always did when he said 
these things to her. She believed everything that Tony told her. 
He knew she told Jack and Allie all of her secrets. He told her 
that he hated them and, if she didn't stop telling them things he 
was going to hurt them. The front door opened, and Tony 
quietly slipped out of the room. 

In the last few months, Nicole's teachers had phoned 
Jean several times concerned with Nicole's declining behavior. 
Her attention was not focused on class related materials. 
Nicole's teacher, Ms. Pearson, had phoned Jean again because 
Nicole had kicked a boy at recess when he refused to give her 
the ball. Then she had ripped a handful of hair out of a fellow 
classmate's head because he had used some of her art supplies. 

That evening when they got home, Jean questioned 
Nicole about her behavior at school. Tony involved himself in 
the discussion by adding that Nicole should be punished. Jean 
became very angry with Nicole when she refused to look at her, 
let alone provide some reason for her unruly behavior. Nicole 
was spanked. That was one of very few times that Jean had 
ever hit her daughter. 

59 



A few weeks after the spanking, Jean picked Nicole up 
from school. Nicole was surprised to see her mom at the 
school because she should have been at work. They came 
home, and Nicole went straight into her room. After being 
home for some time, Jean peeked into Nicole's room. Nicole 
knew her mother was there, but she did not look up. Nicole 
was playing with Jack and Allie. Finally, Nicole looked up and 
locked eyes with her mother, then quickly looked away. Jean 
came into the room and sat down in front of Nicole. 

"Nicole, Tony is not going to live with us anymore. He 
left and is never coming back." Nicole began fidgeting with her 
skirt and looked up at her mother. She looked deep into her 
mother's eyes, searching to find out if this was a trick. Unable 
to find an answer, she focused all her attention on the plaid 
pattern of her skirt. 

"Nicole, was Tony ever mean to you?" 

Nicole began folding her skirt into little triangle pieces. 

"Did Tony ever touch you in the wrong way?" Jean's 

voice began to get shaky. 
"Nicole! Answer me! Did Tony ever do anything to you?" 

"I'm not supposed to tell," Nicole whispered, still 
folding and unfolding the corners of her skirt. 



60 



"Nicole. . ." Jean's voice quieted. She leaned over and 
held up Nicole's chin so she could see her eyes. "Whatever you 
tell me will be all right. I will not be angry with you." Jean ran 
her fingers gently through Nicole's hair, "I love you so much, 
sweetheart. You can tell me." 

Nicole pulled away and sat motionless. Every muscle 
tensed up as she desperately tried not to blink her eyes. She 
tried to hold back the tears, but the emotion was uncontainable 
and she burst into tears. Jean reached over and began to stroke 
Nicole's hair again. Nicole threw herself onto her mother's lap 
and buried her head under her arm for a long time. Jean contin- 
ued to run her fingers through Nicole's hair in a slow, calming 
motion. 

As she lay on Jean's lap crying, she told her mother all 
the horrible things Tony said to her. She told her about the belt. 
Nicole told Jean that one day, she, Ali and Jack were playing in 
her room and were talking into a tape recorder. They were 
making up a story and they wanted to hear what their voices 
sounded like. 

"You went somewhere and Tony came in to my room. 
He started telling me all those bad things. Later, we were 
listening to our story and the part came on when Tony came 



61 



into my room. I didn't mean to have him on there, but when he 
came I got scared and forgot that it was on." 

"Nicole, do you still have that tape?" 

"Uh-huh. Our story about Gus the mouse is on there, 
too." 

Jean played her daughter's tape. She sat motionless, 
her mouth hanging open, her right hand placed on her forehead. 
Nicole could feel her mother's tears as they fell and rolled down 
onto her face. 

They hugged for along time, neither one speaking a 
word. 

"Pumpkin, I am so sorry. Don't believe that for a 
minute. I love you more than anything in this world," Jean 
sobbed as she wiped her eyes. "I will love you forever. Noth- 
ing will change that. I know how scared you must have been. I 
just wish you had told someone. If only I had known," Jean 
said as tears endlessly flowed down her cheeks. 

"Mommy, I did tell." 

"Who?" Jean jerked upright and searched Nicole's face 
for an answer. 

"I told Jack and Allie. They told me to tell you, but I 
was too afraid." 

Jean looked over at Jack and Allie. They sat side by side, their 
button eyes gazing straight ahead. 

62 



Faith Under Fire 

Stephen Mosca 

My father had a younger sister named Delores, but every- 
one called her Dee. When I was a kid, Aunt Dee was an incred- 
ibly important influence in my life. Although she was clearly an 
adult, she was also kind of like a kid. She was the one who 
bought the first Beatles records I ever heard and let my brother 
and sister and I listen to them in her apartment until we sang 
and danced ourselves ragged. She even went to go see the 
Beatles in person at Shea stadium in 1964, even though she was 
in her thirties at the time. I loved Aunt Dee. Dee knew how to 
have fun like few other adults I knew. 

Dee was very involved in her church. My mom was 
basically a ''verbal" Catholic; she talked a good game and sang 
in the choir at "Our Lady of Mt. Carmel" church where we 
would sporadically attend services, but other than that we didn't 
think about or discuss religion much. Dee was the only one I 
knew who was both seriously involved with the church and 
happy in the sense that she didn't automatically associate her 

63 



religion with guilt. In fact, she was always happy and seemed 
quite guiltless even while being devout. This was a rare and 
refreshing combination. 

Aunt Dee never married and I faintly recall some talk that 
she had been so serious about the church at one time that she 
had considered joining the order and becoming a nun. But she 
never proselytized in the slightest degree, at least not to me. 
She was just a fun, happy person with a great sense of humor 
whom I could always count on to be fair and mature and playful 
and sometimes even a little bit mischievous, all at the same time. 

The years went by and I became an adult myself. Due to 
the nature of my work I had to move away from my home 
town. Aunt Dee had since retired from her job working for a 
local attorney and had begun to travel around quite a bit with a 
girlfriend that she knew from church named Mary Massi. They 
had known each other for as long as I could remember. I recall 
seeing Mary Massi when my aunt would sometimes take us to 
church (and then to the diner afterwards for tea and english 
muffins with jelly and butter) and Mary would always fuss over 
how big and good looking we were becoming and pinch our 
cheeks, pulling the flesh of our faces as if to try to have a piece 
of us for her own. 

Dee and Mary began traveling together and I at learned 
from my sister that what they were doing, that the motive 
behind the trips and the places that they chose to visit, was 

64 



religious in nature. They were visiting all the places in the 
world where it was claimed a miracle had either once occurred 
or was presently occurring. Apparently, there is no shortage of 
such claims and they were traveling the globe checking each 
one out personally in the order of how genuine they felt the 
claim to be. At one point they journeyed to a small town in 
Romania to see a statue of the virgin Mary in some women's 
basement that was claimed to be crying real tears. This particu- 
lar statue had been pretty notorious among the faithful at the 
time and so Aunt Dee and Mary made the arduous trip immedi- 
ately so that their chances of actually witnessing the miracle 
would be favorable. 

I happened to be in New York for a weekend not long 
after Aunt Dee's return and had called my sister to see if she 
wanted to get together and have dinner while I was in town. 
She said that, coincidentally, she was supposed to have dinner 
with Aunt Dee that Saturday night and that I should come along 
as well. It would be the first time the three of us would be 
together in years, and who knew how long it would be until we 
all managed to get together again in the future and so I immedi- 
ately agreed. 

Saturday night came and at the appointed time we all met 
at a Red Lobster restaurant on Central Avenue in Yonkers. My 
sister and I, who saw each other and spoke fairly frequently by 
phone, had just gotten our greetings out of the way when Aunt 

65 



Dee came in. She was the same as ever. Short dark hair, big 
warm smile, her beaming personality exuding life and optimism. 
She was, as always, simply but fashionably attired, happy and 
energetic. She greeted us with warmth and affection as if we 
were still the small children who sheltered beneath her umbrella 
of unconditional love during our most trying of times. After we 
were seated and had ordered some appetizers, we began to 
discuss what each of us had been up to since we were all to- 
gether last. 

My sister graduated college and traveled to England for a 
while. She now worked for a large brokerage firm in Manhat- 
tan as a systems analyst and had become a Vice President of her 
department. I had taken a job as a consultant with a large 
defense contractor and was working in San Diego, living on the 
beach and driving a Corvette. Aunt Dee was typically expres- 
sive in her amazement at the paths of our lives and made us feel 
quite proud of ourselves in the telling of our own, perhaps 
otherwise taken for granted, accomplishments, which is just 
what Aunt Dee could always be counted on to do. We then 
asked her what she had been up to in the last several years and 
she began to tell us of the literally miraculous places she had 
been and the people she had met. Soon the story progressed to 
the weeping Madonna in Romania. 

"Mary Massi and I went to Romania where there's a 
statue of the virgin Mary who cries real tears," she told us 
eagerly and in all sincerity. 

66 



"What do you mean?" I asked My sister looked on 
knowing that I, always the skeptic, could be relied upon to ask 
more than enough questions for the both of us and so she need 
only sit and listen for most of her own questions to eventually 
be asked and answered. 

"Well," Dee went on, "there's this statue of the Madonna 
and the women who has it got it from a church that was de- 
stroyed during the war, a church where some saints are buried. 
She rescued this statue and put her in the basement of her house 
and built a small altar around it and one day she noticed what 
looked like tears running down from the eyes of the statue." 

"Hmmm," my sister murmured. 

"Maybe it's just condensation," I offered gently. 

"A lot of people thought the same thing and they all have 
tried to figure out a reason why a statue would weep. They had 
it x-rayed and examined by scientists but no one can figure out 
a reason for this to happen. And it only happens sometimes. 
But they're real tears, they even taste salty." 

Obviously, Dee was convinced beyond a shadow of a 
doubt and she marveled at the implications this held for her 
beliefs. How wonderful, I thought to myself, that it is true 
enough for Dee to get some real peace from believing it. But I 
was young, and a newly trained engineer who was becoming 
practiced at searching for rational explanations for unexplained 
events, and I couldn't resist trying to see if I could uncover any 
logic in this apparent apparition. 

67 



"Why would a statue in a basement in Romania be the one 
that the Madonna would choose to personify herself?" I asked. 
"Why not the one in St. Patrick's Cathedral downtown, or in 
the Vatican, or even all statues of the Madonna everywhere at 
once?" 

"I don't know, Stevie, but this is real. Mary Massi and I 
saw it for ourselves." Aunt Dee's voice was full of enthusiasm 
and very sincere. She was getting excited in recalling the trip 
and her time with the statue, with the throngs of believers 
pressing together into a single, throbbing human mass, their 
combined energy directed towards this symbol of ultimate hope. 
This living statue was an acknowledgement of, and actual 
contact with, their difficult and often cruel earthbound lives. 

"There are thousands of people who travel to see this 
virgin, to pray and to touch her tears. Both Mary and I have a 
piece of holy cloth that was used to dry the tears. Here, I have 
it right here." 

As Dee began rummaging around in her pocketbook my 
sister and I exchanged a furtive glance. Not that we thought 
our dear Aunt was going off her nut or anything, but it was a 
little bizarre to be sitting in a Red Lobster in Yonkers while 
someone we knew and loved dearly was looking through her 
purse for piece of cloth she was certain had been blessed with 
the actual tears cried by the Virgin Mary for the crucifixion of 
Jesus Christ himself, as manifest in a stone figurine in some 

68 






obscure Romanian basement. All we could see of Dee for a 
while was the top of her head, her black hair hanging down 
obscuring her features, her arms working furiously, searching 
the contents of the bag on her lap when suddenly, with a trium- 
phant flourish, she straightened up and held forth the object of 
her search: Among the rosaries and Mass cards there was a 
plastic packet with a small square of what looked to be a 
slightly smudged piece of white cotton cloth, about an inch 
square, its edges slightly frayed, which she extracted from its 
pouch and held gingerly by one corner in front of herself for us 
to behold. We gazed at the small artifact for several moments, 
cocking our heads this way and that, wondering exactly what 
we should be seeing or thinking or saying at being presented 
with something supposedly as holy and sacred as this miracu- 
lous shred of fabric but seeing only a small, rather unremarkable 
piece of what was perhaps only garden variety Romanian linen. 
Dee was fingering it lightly between her thumb and forefinger 
and gazing between it and us as if all doubts had now been laid 
to rest. 

My sister sat there politely, peering at the item before her, 
and may have reached out and touched it herself, if only for a 
moment. Her expression was one of approval, encouraging 
Dee's already formulated opinion, offering no counterpoint. I, 
on the other hand, decided to pursue the subject just a tad 
further. 



69 



"So, you're telling me that this cloth has the tears of the 
virgin Mary on it?" I asked. 

"Yup," Dee replied, rather blissfully. "It's blessed cloth, 
Stevie. Holy. Nothing can harm it and it brings me good 
fortune and protects as long as I carry it with me." 

Rats! An absolute claim had been made. I should have 
disregarded it, but it just wasn't in me to do so. I was still very 
much a certain type of cynic; alert to my definition of words but 
ignorant of their value as used by others. Her metaphysical 
claim had engaged a side of my personality that perhaps would 
better have been left at home that particular evening. With as 
much zeal as insensitivity, I pressed the issue. 

"What do you mean nothing can harm it?" 

"It's indestructible. Once it has the holy tears on it there's 
nothing that can harm it. It's truly a miracle." 

"But, how do you really know?" I asked sincerely. "Have 
you tried to do anything to harm it? Have you ever tried to, 
say... tear it, for instance?" I inquired. 

"No. But there are stories of cloth just like this one 
stopping bullets and curing cancer and all kinds of otherwise 
unexplainable things," she told me. "Almost every villager 
there had a story to tell like that." 

"Do you mean to tell me that if I were, say, to try to burn 
that cloth right now that it simply wouldn't burn?" I knew I 



-ii 



was getting into dangerous territory here, but being young, 
imprudent and thus engaged, I simply couldn't let such a claim 
pass. Besides, somewhere inside I really wanted it all to be 
true, for the cloth to be truly indestructible, for my Aunt Dee to 
really have a tangible basis for being as good as she had always 
proven herself to be. We all sat in quiet contemplation for a 
moment. Dee, who had been holding out the cloth all this time, 
now handed it over to me and I took it and felt it between my 
fingers. It was a act of trust on her part, I suppose. Of the 
cloth itself, I perceived nothing extraordinary. I then handed it 
to my sister who took it very gingerly, looked at it intently, first 
the one side, then the other, and then gently handed it back to 
Aunt Dee. I noted to myself that my sister and I handled Dee's 
cloth as if it were extremely fragile instead of the very essence 
of permanence it was purported to be. 

"That's wonderful, Dee," my sister said with an over 
eager expression of approval, obviously humoring the old gal. I 
thought the controversy had safely passed, but Dee must have 
registered the tone of my sister's voice and a sudden gleam 
came into her eye. I thought I recognized it as that mischievous 
quality I suspected resided within her still. She fixed her gaze 
at me. 

"Go ahead, Stevie, try to burn it," she blurted out. It was 
more a command than an offer. 



71 



"No! Dee, I couldn't." I noticed I was physically backing 
away from the table as I said this. "There is no way I'm going 
to burn up something you went all the way to Romania to get. 
Besides, you said it wouldn't burn and if you believe it won't, 
why shouldn't I?" 

"No, really, go ahead, I want you to. It won't burn, you'll 
see. Once the Madonna's tears have touched it, it lost its 
worldly ability to be harmed. Don't be afraid. I'm not." 

I looked at my sister. She gave me one of those "you're 
on your own" looks. I looked back at Dee who was sitting 
there radiating the faith she felt in her heart and proclaimed with 
her words, holding the little square of cloth in the middle 
distance between us, offering it up as proof of her sincerity. I 
looked into Dee's eyes, those trusting, loving eyes I would 
never intentionally hurt, and the cloth between us went slightly 
out of focus, becoming a visual blur against the reality of the 
clattering restaurant activity around us. My sense of what to do 
had also become a bit blurry. 

"Dee, if I light this up and it burns, we'll both feel terrible, 
so let's just let it go, ok?" Now I was trying desperately to 
back out. Why must the rubber always meet the road, after all? 

"It won't burn Stevie, believe me. Go ahead, try to light it 
on fire. I want you to try." 

So, I took the cloth from my aunt with my left hand and 
held it out before me over the center of the table by one of its 

72 



corners so that it was suspended equidistantly between the three 
of us. The lighting in the room was rather dim and seemed to 
get even dimmer as I prepared to test my Aunt's faith as well as 
my judgement as a good nephew. I slowly reached into the 
breast pocket of my shirt with my right hand and took out my 
cigarette lighter. I held the lighter about a half an inch below 
the lowest corner of the sacred cloth and glanced once more at 
my aunt and then at my sister, who sat there kind of slack-jawed 
in disbelief that I was actually going to do such a thing. I was 
waiting to see if the bluff would be called. My sister's look 
became worried. My aunt looked supremely confident. No 
resistance was offered. 

"You sure?" I asked one last time, raising my eyebrows to 
impart the significance of the question. 

Aunt Dee nodded assuredly and said, "go ahead." 

I flicked the striker on the lighter and the small bluish 
flame leapt from its maw. We all sat transfixed at the sight of 
the initial flame, all our attention focused as it was on the cloth, 
the flame, and the implication of what was to follow. For us, 
the outside world had for now ceased to exist and we were in a 
silent and secret circle of profound import. 

For a split second the cloth hung suspended over the tip 
of the lighter's dancing flame and I'm quite sure that we were 
all hoping in that frozen moment of time that a true miracle 
might occur, for the lighter to go out by an unexplained gust of 

73 



air perhaps or, dare I even think it, for the cloth to simply not 
bum even as it was bathed in the high temperature plasma being 
applied and rising from directly beneath it. The heat of the man 
made flame met my aunt's tear soaked miracle cloth and sud- 
denly, in a rather brief but unexpectedly bright burst of light, 
which made me draw my hands back and apart from each other 
instinctively, the little square of white cloth from Romania burst 
not only into flame, but sublimated completely out of existence 
leaving behind only a thin, twisting tendril of black residue 
floating in the space the cloth had previously occupied. The 
sound of our sudden and simultaneous inhalation of breath 
accompanied the burst of heat and light, and then, for what 
seemed a very long moment, there was utter silence among us. 
We watched the cooling residuum twist with a graceful agony 
on the prevailing currents until it had completely dissipated and 
was visible no longer. 

I looked at my sister, whose eyes were extremely wide. 
As for myself, I felt extremely foolish, as I knew that the cloth 
would burn, I needn't have actually burned it to prove it to be 
so and yet I had, destroying my Aunt's expensively acquired 
prize souvenir and perhaps her faith as well, and for what? My 
sister and I both looked over at Aunt Dee, worried perhaps that 
she would be angry, hurt, or so disappointed that she would 
collapse on the spot, spiritually if not physically. She too had 
been watching the black remnant of her holy cloth as it floated 

74 



away. Then, with the same countenance of serenity born of 
faith fixed upon her wonderfully composed face, she gazed 
upon us both and said, with complete confidence and compo- 
sure: "I guess Mary got the piece with the tears on it." 



. 



75 



76 



Poetry 



77 



This is a Battlefield My Dear 

Teresa Bergman 

"This is a battlefield my dear. . . 
whatever are you doing here?" 

"I have come to walk among 
the dying. " 

"There are no dying here, you can see 
I fight, I am strong." 

"Then let me offer a kiss to this 
courageous soul. " 

As the Lady in white bends down 

the soldier offers his head for 

this sweet blessing and vaguely notices 

Her pristine gown 

and wonders where She has been. 

"Fear not brave heart, I will 
watch over the ones you love. " 

He slowly raises his eyes to see 
Her smiling face. The soft 
outline of wings grace his sight and 
a quiet "Thank you" escapes 
his lips before the bullet 
meets its mark. 



78 



Professors 

Teresa Bergman 

They all sit there so knowing, 
So sure of themselves, and 
So refined. 
The lofty words they use 

They do not know the feeling, 
the meaning, if you will. 

Vaulted above the likes of me 

By their own powers 
of divination. 
They claim their haughty airs 

are proof of their enlightenment, 
Which should be taken 

as the ends of truth. 

"Do not discover your own, 

only tell me what I 

already know!", claim 
the Truth Givers. 
I will dash their claims of perfection 

and unleash a seed of doubt. 



i 



79 



Residual Requiem for Recurring Relinquished Relics 

Louis Clausi 

Now I think of them and they are only gone again. 

I got the bubble, in the middle of my abdomen. 

But things float up now and again, the bubbles almost full. 

Possessions are no things to cling to but the memories ardently 

pull. 

A sill full of sallow reflections. 

Things that seemed dear to me. 

They are hungry when they show up 

and shuffle to the front for my memory. 

Things I remember at such an early age, 

the scatter of 45's, cards and drawings 

around my room so oddly placed. 

All those little things in having 

where my character was shaped. 

I remember the bike I had at the age of 1 5 

to the zither and the citar I had hardly ever seen. 

How easily things could get lost in the house of Dr. Pal. 

although he was a Dr., I still can't find them now. 

There were books, cassettes and clothing 

Ideas and thoughts and friends 

some things important, the list just never ends. 



80 



As time went on the things piled up 

they threw me for a loop 

Like that time I messed up that audition 

for the Blue Man Group. 

sometimes leaving scars 

there were paintings, poems, animals and cars. 

Then it came to musical things 

like drums, that Roland Spd8, two banjos and the accordion, 

Flutes, Guitars 4 tracks, and that freaking violin. 

The 150 tapes that got stolen with music from my teens 

Canes, Plants, Posters, with plenty in between. 

More than those possessions are decisions of the past 

I thought I got over the tormenting but 

sometimes they just last. 

But now 1 face the truth and I know that I don't mind 

No use in regretting what now I will never find. 

One day my energy will cease and I will no longer be 

and the loss of my possessions could only set me free. 

My mind does window-shopping 

as I waltz through what I explore 

and I know that if I were to obtain more things 

I would only be inviting the potential of losing more. 



81 



Swingin' in the Tide 

Maddy Adams 

Through the pitfalls of time 

losing a job, running missing the line. 

Love at its worst 

just lust a hormonal curse. 

We are swingin' in the tide 

by the Oceanside 

cause nobody's life comes planned. 

So some are rich 

and some are damned 

like me 

in this world I see 

no useful reason to be 

just energy 

that lives and dies 

no matter how hard they cry. 

So I think 

before my ship sinks 

how a man can change mortality 

but doing this I drift farther from reality 

cause it makes a man's mind hurt 

to dream the nothingness of 6 feet in the dirt. 

But wait, 

why don't we create 
a way to make 
us immortal. 

82 



A cloning machine to give a time porthole 
by making young bodies for our aged minds 
'cause neurons can live long, so scientists find. 

Creating in effect a human's gold years gold, 

no arthritis, wrinkles, or hips easily broken. 

Just a wise mind in the fresh flesh, 

after this our brain power will be the test. 

to see if we find new environments for our growing population 

or curing cancer and world relations. 

We are just swinging in the tide 
so I find 

living light — before dark 
can it shine? 

And make our little worlds forever 
with a catchy slogan like "Die Never," 
for a futuristic company 
in specialization of human cloning. 
Selling hearts, and legs to those in need, 
making perfect clones from a perfect seed. 

But some say never disrespect 

another man's dreams and intellect. 

Someday, something may happen 

and those in doubt, they'll be nappin'. 

In a perfect world — God will save us all 

but we need to think out this thing before we fall. 



83 



Alcohol's Proof 

Erin Turner 

With the shades pulled down and pain as captor, 
emptiness echoed against the faint light 
while innocence crumbled on filthy floors. 

Father's beer-stenched whip reminded of chores, 
and suicide's noose became much too tight 
with the shades pulled down and pain as captor. 

The alcohol's proof equaled endless sores, 
and the offspring struggled with a lost fight 
while innocence crumbled on filthy floors. 

In sober times, to his daughter he swore 

that some day the family would unite 

with the shades pulled down and pain as captor. 

Exhausted from lies, she uttered no more, 
prepared for the time when she would indict 
while innocence crumbled on filthy floors. 

Just as she promised, she declared war 
as bullets linked them that vengeful night 
with the shades pulled down and pain as captor 
while innocence crumbled on filthy floors. 



84 



Pillow Talk 

Leslie Claus 

You woke up that morning 
and said, "I have to go now... 
(you had an epiphany) 
for the last twenty years 
I've lived someone else's life. ,, 
You weren't kidding. 
And you left 
your shirts and pants 
hanging in the closet 
with your shoes lined up 
waiting for you to choose 
which ones you'd walk out with. 

I woke up the next morning 

and said, "Now what" to your pillow, 

the indentation of your head 

still visible. 

First I rearrange the furniture 

and put pictures face down on closet shelves 

to be dealt with another day 

and smoke five cigarettes for every cup of coffee. 
That night I play pool by myself with your favorite cue 
singing I Will Always Love You 
in my best Dolly Parton voice 
and drink a whole pitcher of martinis 
called Sacred Truth 
hoping that I might actually discover it. 



85 



Candy 

Sasha McBrayer 

She walks by and smiles like we're old friends 
Candy 

"Did I speak to you?" 

Am I so beneath her that she would not remember a conversa- 
tion with me? 
Candy 

I shake my head in the negative 
I think to myself that she's confused 
Candy 

She offers me a bright orange square of paper 
Candy 

Now I see... She wants me to vote her queen 
Candy 

This is my name, this is my face, this is me being pleasant to 
you 

These are my eyes covered in make-up 
Here is my name and where you will find it on the ballot 
Candy 

"OK," I say with a smile 
Knowing you would never vote for me 
Knowing that should you win, you'd become queen of 
. . . Nothing 
Candy 

"Oh yes, would you like a piece of candy?" 
"Sure . . ." 
Candy. . . 

I have no desire to walk to the polling place 
I have already forgotten your face 
All I remember 
Is a piece of candy 
In my pocket. 



86 



The Game 

Sasha McBrayer 

Everything was a game 

And the game was everything 

There was nothing outside the game's realm 

And winning was as important as breathing 

Your whole body served your will 

And your will was golden and forceful 

There was no overreacting 

For the game was life itself 

You took yourself seriously 

And switched sides 

If it meant you'd survive 

There were weapons 

And there were hiding places 

Some days we ran forever 

And hid so hard our bodies became fatigued 

Anticipation fluttered in your stomach 

And it made you want to scream out with singing laughter 

The enemy could be as twisted and as cruel as your nightmares 

You'd do anything not to get caught 

You'd use any excuse to run 

But eventually the sky got dark 

And mom called you in for supper 

You'd play another game of war 

Tomorrow. 



87 



Gorgon 

Chris Burchette 

Medusa shedding, 

"old habits die hard" 

skin after skin, layer after layer. Sometimes those snakes grow back 

a concept stolen from Lazarus. Medusa laughs at the concept of a Christian 

myth, 

her eyes green with envy and contempt. 

Sometimes in her cavern of ivory she dares to gaze at her reflection, 

Her greatest fear is herself, 

The Midas touch. But did Midas ever turn himself into gold? 

She studies herself, 

blood dripping from a jagged scalp, hair stained crimson, 

a root of torn snake poking from the mesh of skin and scales. Her beauty 

returns but as the legend goes sometimes those snakes grow back. 

Medusa frightening, 
"old habits die hard" 
rumors beget curiosity, 
curiosity begets stone, 
stone people never talk, 
they just listen. 



88 



Mariah and her Fancy Red Scarf 

Ryan Clark 

My favorite time of the year is when I 

See the scarves floating 

Above my head, like a moth 

Last Thursday, flapping in circles, 

Trying to escape the cold, 

Lying between Harris and Macon 

In a backyard garden, 

Holding the scarves 

For my wintertime wonder in red; 

I chase them and dance, 

Swinging arms, jumping, 

Oozing peppers, broken squash; 

From a bag on Broughton 

For coffee and a cheesecake muffin; 

Candy-apple red, frayed and fancy, 

For my live-in lady friend 



89 



If I were Set with Wings Ample Enough to Fly 

Louis Clausi 

Zeus held his hands high 

with the stealth of an anvil set by his side. 

Pressed opaque behind his shoulder, 

diligent spread of thought 

tracing hands stretched 

to reach for a mushroom cloud 

without the reverberation. 

Intent to fly as I am flying. 

Lofty sojourn, out in the open with the elements, 

a bit more of a breeze in my hair. 

The sounds in my head, soft like a pan of cotton. 

Cupid's soft hearth of cirrus held straight to ice skate 

behind the faces of Dali, Davis, Dunn, Pastorius, 

Beethoven, Sunshine, Fonseco, Teller, Gandhi, and Bugs Bunny. 

I want to fly along side Super-Man, 

along side Wonder Woman, 

along side a carrier pigeon. 

I want to catch the glare of Wonder Woman's wristbands, 

let my eyes graze on the sunshine you can see peering through her 

invisible jet. 

It will prevent the breeze through my hair 

but at least I can still see the air below me. 

Behind the breaks of jet trails, soft hugs, the Michelin Man, 

boomerangs, butterflies, children diving for balls, 

women balancing baskets, dog's ears, flying back, 

sitting in a teacup, and turtles upside down. 

Me waving, turning, sitting, flying, 

the land below me in an assimilated city haze, 

sun across the cabin, 

chills on my toes within every cloud. 

Its own slope, 

wings, 

glazed back in the softest hope, 

still for moments. 

In the air, 

waning while I fly. 

At your hip I turn, like a whale on helium wings. 

Lifted like the elements we breathe and a rabbit's run. 

I fly. 

90 



Metals Sent from Greece to America 

Eric Verhine 



"listen to the rest of the story. 'All of you in the city are broth- 
ers/ we'll say to them in telling our story, 'but the god who 
made you mixed some gold into those who are adequately 
equipped to rule, because they are most valuable. He put silver 
in those who are auxiliaries and iron and bronze in the farmers 
And other craftsmen.'" 

From Plato's Republic 

I, being born silver, attend a near 
and meager college, for which mom and dad, 
likewise silver, disburse their assets dear, 
to pattern me into a bourgeois lad. 

While walking to the car, after my class, 
I pass the bronze men, toiling at their sites - 
The proles - who never gave no dead rat's ass 
'bout Smith's or Marx's fiscal insights. 

Once home, we beaten bronze and silver knaves 
do much the same: we couch our selves and watch 
the shadows live on walls within our caves, 
reflections dark of gold folk without blotch. 

And yet, when you read Plato's famous lie 
and chide those false inequities, you sigh. 



91 



The Breaking Point 

Erin Turner 

Blindly I begin my studies from a purity burning within, 

restlessly waiting to execute that fateful fire of wild desires 

distancing me from the always annoying educator of grammar rules 

and formulas, catapulting the start of my college career toward catastrophe 

marked first by the drink and then by the pill and then the crushed pill to make its way 

up the canal of my nose polluting my brain in a speedier fashion as I had no time to waste 

since descending to undiscovered depths required that posthaste method, and once subordin 

I could only look up from the pit I had hallowed, and with eyes upward, I could evade incominj 

so I sought to extinguish the yearning fire of Vogefs dependent heart, and I unearthed 

the kindling for a fire in the head, so Tess and Ligeia became oxygen for the flames 

in my mind while my souvenir singed heart seared my youth out of necessity 

to spark my impending end, which was never meant to be figures of grams, 

ounces, and quarters, but rather a rhyme, meter, rhythm, and form; therefore, 

I sharply continue my studies from a scorched site so to better see, 

not from my crouched position in that burning shelter as before 

but rather from the blackened spot where I now stand. 



92 



Meditations from a Mountain 

Ryan Clark 

I climbed from the depths of sorrow 
Whose clambering chains grappled my soul. 
Once enveloped in the depths, I sought refuge in the 
Ageless sun. 

I looked from the mountains of salvation 
Whose authenticity I questioned with fervor. 
Twice upon the mountains I sought refuge from the 
Ageless sun. 

I drank from the waters of purity 

Whose clarity saturated my thoughts. 

Thrice swam the ripples, I sought refuge with the 

Ageless sun. 

Now, I lie as a stone gleaming the reflection 
Whose wisdom and beauty I sought. 
I look upon the ageless sun and, alas, 
I can look no more. 



93 



Untitled 

Donald Stapleton 



Dream, 

awake to pain. 

Walk to the shadowy 

ashes that reveal 

nothing. 

Drops of liquid 

from my hand, 

not Blood, 

not Red, 

bleak, like the color of 

soul. 

Cry, cry out to 

the night. 

Search for Halos 

that shall not hear. 

Tears fall on dreams 

unanswered. 



94 



L 



Protestantism 

by: Eric Verhine 

After huddling for refuge into the cowl and cloister, 

The first twelve months when the Devil remained peaceable, 

The daily prayers seven times over and the assiduous meditation. 

After first saying the mass when the Infinite 

With a Holy, Ogerish Face seized his spiritual shoulders 

And shook him to bony, bloody, grated knees 

In righteous fear and hallowed trembling, 

After the strenuous sojourn to the Eternal City 

— HAIL, HOLY ROME! — 

A month of venerating shrines and bones and holy relics, 

Of appropriating all the spiritual resources and bargains 

That the Eternal City could offer his beleaguered soul, 

And after ceaselessly shedding emaciated tears 

Over and over and over the Hebrew and the Greek, 

And beating importunately on his dear apostle Paul, 

Martin Luther refound the Faith, and God. 

and as if you, 
american pastor, 
comport with God. 
you, who've never 
shook when flipping 
open your Bible, 
you, who've never 
trembled while 
passing around 
the Lord's Supper, 
the wee plastic 
cups half-full 
of grape juice, 
the bite-sized 
wafers. 

you, who request 
a "love offering" 
for spending cash 
on your vacation 
to Cancun. 
you, who read your 
Bibles in English. 

95 



Trick from the Hat 

Maddy Adams 



And the burning Bush 
said to the setting sun, 
"I hope around you come." 

And the Arab Prince 

with a trillion cents 

was mad at the other world. 

And the time ensued 
and the armies brood 
marching around the world. 

And they burnt their flags 
and wound their rags 
around a burning fool. 

And all between 
and all who see 
struck for ever more. 

Jihad they cry 

to the burning sky 

I hope the end will come. 

And for pride they cry 
for all that die 
God Bless America. 

And all between 
and all that see 
struck for ever more. 



96 



Roman candles 

and bottle rockets, 

proud soldiers 

and those in office. 

Nobody cares to 

and nobody wants to 

stop it. 

But yet someone 

knocks on the door. 

Peace ringing the bell. 

A dove flies by the window 

and the war burns in hell. 

But yet someone 
knocks on the door. 
Peace is ringing the bell. 
Put away all your weapons 
tear down this evil spell. 

Love is knocking at the door. 
Why don't you step right in? 
Lead us through the dull, 
show us where to begin. 



Life can come to you only if you try harder than that. 
Love will come to you for things smaller than that. 
Peace is the only way you can pull the trick from the hat. 



97 



Relative Individuality 

Eric Verhine 

Trained mom and trained dad train Timmy. 
Trained mom speaks and points 

until Timmy speaks their speech and gets their point. 
Trained mom speaks and points, "duck." 
Timmy gets the point and speaks their speech. 
Then Timmy sees a chicken. 
Timmy speaks and points, "duck." 
Trained mom knows Timmy did not get the point. 
Trained mom speaks and points, "chicken." 
Timmy gets the point and speaks their speech. 
Trained dad acts in front of Timmy. 
Trained dad does the acts and points 

until Timmy acts their acts and gets their point. 
Trained dad pees in the "pot." 
Timmy pees in the "pot." 
Then Timmy pees on the grass. 
Trained dad knows Timmy did not get the point. 
Trained dad whacks Timmy. 
Timmy gets the point and pees in the "pot." 
Trained teacher trains Timmy. 
Trained teacher trains Timmy to write. 
Trained teacher writes writing on the board. 
Trained teacher writes and points 

until Timmy writes their writing and gets their point. 



98 



Timmy writes their writing. 

"Write their writing right, write their writing right..." 

Trained teacher trains Timmy to calculate. 

Trained teacher calculates a calculation on the board. 

Trained teacher calculates and points 

until Timmy calculates their calculation and 

gets their point. 
Trained teacher trains Timmy to read. 
Now Tim can learn their learning. 

Thereafter, Timothy's instruction serves, as it were, 

as a trellis to which the vines of his 

dubieties and certainties adhere, 

or, to transmogrify the metaphor, 

as a rostrum on which Timothy ambulates, 

while he carps about challenging authority and 

affirming individuality. 



99 



Bald Mountain Maine, July 17 2001 

Emily Joost 



We herded children up the trail, teaching them to look 
for the white Xs on trunks marking the way to the top. We 
dutifully told them about not littering and staying hydrated and 
observing but not touching. We tried to instill respect for this 
vastness in 15 eight-year-olds. We hushed their chatter and 
taught them to listen to birds and see squirrels. We said leading 
was not the most important but being there was what mattered. 

Up we went telling them the view would be worth the 
work. We continued to talk and explain and answer as we 
rounded the edge of the mountain but when we reached the 
top, we drew in a breath and realized in a glance that words 
didn't matter. At that moment we all understood. 



100 



Spider 

Amy Limpert 

Your eyes simulated my gaze, 

as I was seduced by enticing illusions - 

never feeling your deadly kiss. 

Falling into powerless confinement, 

trapped as a victim in your web, 

in which there seemed no escape. 

As you toyed with the notion of consumption, 

your prey was left to question its fate. 

Drained to the point of lethargy, 

my narcotic slumber nearly submitted to an enslaving eternity. 

This malignance is your definition of love. 

My lips will forever taste your poision. 



Mother 

Amy Limpert 

Mother and child, and unbreakable bond. 

One acts as protector, shielding away evil, 

proudly watching the life her precious creation unfolds. 

The other breathes in life, tackling it with invincibility, 

knowing if any danger occurs, her hand will catch the fall. 

The initial connection that sustains a lifetime. 

Immortality is each other's unspoken dream, 

broken as one becomes inflicted with a terminal disease. 

The roles begin to change, 

the two assume unfamiliar parts. 

Tears lessen the pain in their hearts, 

clinging to one another, thinking of wasted years. 

Always hopeful for another moment, unsure how it will end. 

Believe that God hears one's prayers. 



101 



Phys. Ed. 

Jeremy Windus 

Behold this shattered scream, 
A vivid scene of scraps: 

Here and there a disc is thrown 

A stick swung, a whistle blown 
In this Hall of false parquet, woefully dull and tragic. 
Proud banners emblazon walls, 
Retelling conquests and falls. 

A little boy cannot climb the ropes. 
Instructor aloofly conducts each harried, hurried young child. 
Brilliant keys jingle on his belt. 

The little boy weeps at the ropes. 
Tears that burn hot; hot like rage. 
Surging down sad marble cheeks. 
The hall erupts in full 
Pompeii grandstands of laughter. 

The little boy flees from the ropes. 
From this moment, this soul-crushing crime, 
Beneath a life long-drenched deep in grime. 
Burning gently at the back of his throat. 
Holding ages of dread within Charon's boat, 
Armed with Shiva and an old Celtic Ghost, 
Come hot from hell now to fulfill Ulysses' boast, 
A mark of shame emblazoned on his chest, 
Eyeing the dove's tail once used as a crest, 

To collect a promise made / A debt unpaid, 
Exacted now through a pound of flesh. 

The little boy returns to the ropes. 
Thus, as the boy steps forth in this state- 
Unnoticed 'till now, unpicked 'till this date- 
Ready to swing, ready to kick. 
See his face? 
Is he sick? 

No. 

I want to breathe smoke. 



102 



i wish. 

Vicky Smith 

when the whole world sleeps 
and the night is vast and empty 
as i sit on the front porch, 
swinging slowly- 

hinges creaking in the dim silence, 
bare feet brushing against the cold concrete, 
looking out into a cold, alien world: 
a solitary being vying for existence 
with the blank, faraway glow of the stars- 
i watch the embers 
at the end of my cigarette 
struggling not to fade 
into the opaque nonexistence 
of a small fire dying in the night- 
tendrils of smoke, twisting, 
gray and vague, 
disintegrating into the crisp air 
and forgotten- 
unknown except by these blood shot 
tired, straining eyes; 
and as the last tiny red glow 
flickers into oblivion 
i wish - 

on those stars i always lose against- 
that i could believe in you. 



103 



time warped letters set in stone 

Vicky Smith 

Someone tell me how we return to the times of innocence- 
back when we were self-assured prophets instead of burn-outs or enemies; 
back when forever still stood a chance in hell; 

back before we raped the "could-be" until its headstone read "should-have" 
in time warped letters set in stone. 

I blundered into you and it was the sweetest accident 1 ever made. 
Someone tell me how to get back to that time of chance collision, 
someone tell me how to freeze it, 

someone tell me how to let us -then know how precious those moments are 
before the time perversion. 

My clock just chimed "too late" and I have no where to go 
in this broad valley of wrecked and burned bridges. 
Someone tell me how we return to the times of innocence. 



104 



I remember 

by: Vicky Smith 

the poverty, the sadness. 

and how pretty it was. the sunlight through the window on the 
burdened wooden floor. 

velma crying naked on the toilet as i washed her triangular child- 
breasts with a dirty white cloth 

the old woman sitting alone in the kitchen, watching her aching knees 
swell 

in the miasma of heat and rotting food, yelling -thank you sweet 
jesus- 

as velma screamed and sweat dripped into my eyes 
the dust mites wandering in the shafts of light leaking into the de- 
spair-darkness 
-from outside 

where velma might have been normal 
and no white stranger would ever 
have to see her naked and 
force dirty washrags on her 



105 



a quiet (still) day 



Vicky Smith 
it was a quiet (still) day- 
that painful-poised feel 
of a liquid-glass droplet 
clinging to air and 
stainless steel 
justabout to 
but not quite 
yet fall 

a cat's aboutto jump 
day 

with the sky all 
wound up 
a 

bam! 

blatant blue 
hurled 
between 

bunched up clouds 
readyto- 

a 

condensed no 
water added Saturday and 
i smoked more than usual 
went to work and 

nothing 
happened 

to justify 

the tense blue hue 

of the 

sky-about-to-spring 

and it was (still) 

just a quiet day 

blue and then black and 

"tomorrow, then." 

was foggy 

and 

gray. 



106 



the insomniac's play 

Vicky Smith 

eerie fluorescent light spills from the moon 

casting shadows on the paper houses 

i stand on a vast stage 

with all four corners of eternity 

and all the creatures that lurk in their shadows 

at my outstretched fingertips- 

every leaf is a shadow puppet, 

thespians in absurdity theater: the wind- 

the cardboard trees don't quite pull off the 

the illusion of depth 

and every blade of grass is distinct, 

cutting the scenery from its low horizon- 

the world is breathing on this quiet stage 

and i, the actor and the audience, 

breathe with it 

beneath the expanse of stars caught in still frame 

i fold my hands behind my back 

for i am afraid to touch something so unreal 

and to reach towards unknown lands 

behind that building stark against its black background 

and i am afraid 

that were i to touch it, to reach out 

i would discover my self unreal 

in the early morning hour of the insomniac's play. 



107 



epiphany while scrubbing the toilet 

Vicky Smith 

I noticed 

as I was bent over the toilet, 

scrubbing with 

a beer in my hand, 

shirtless with 

my tits all over the place 

(and the cat staring 

from the comer) 

that when I flushed the toilet 

the lights flickered- 

and when 

the window unit a/c comes on 

the lights flicker 



and when i turn on the vacuum 
the lights flicker 

and, it seems 

every fuckin day 

it grows a little darker in here 

flickering like bitter Christmas tree lights 
verging on mutiny: 

everything dragging shadows, tugging 
in the dark 

and 1 realized, one day, 
I'll lift my left pinky 
and it will all go black 

and, if the cat or I 
notice that the light 
finally threw its arms 
up in despair 
and made a final exit- 

I seriously doubt, by that point, 

that either of us will give a damn. 

108 



recipe for a lesson in pursuit of tomorrow 

Vicky Smith 

take a handful of residual sun gilded memories. 

wash in silence and late-night tears. 

submerge in never-can never-will dreams 

born of cigarette smoke, haunting music 

and neurotic pacing. 

add a razor sharp sliver of hope 

reflected in the eyes 

of the drawn pale face 

hovering in the side view mirror 

on that random drive. 

stir to a vaporous sludge of unreality. 

sprinkle with bitterness, 

bake at 750 degrees on high cynicism, 

ice with irony and rage. 

eat alone in a house echoing 

with the shadows of cries. 

swallow despite the lump 

in your throat. 

sleep. 

dream. 

wake to an elusive tomorrow 

that never seems to come, 

energized by the remnants 

of what he couldn't take 

hanging heavy in your bowels. 

remember the taste of a lesson 

as you continue through 

the varying shades and hues and textures 

of existence, 

chasing tomorrow towards 

a self made destiny. 



109 



110 



Art 



in 



112 





Naive Knew Better 

Sebastian Phillip - Photo 



113 




Ocean 

Amy Limpert - Digital 



114 




Behold Your Life 

Jeremy Windus - Photo 



115 




Pause 

Emily Joost - Photo 



116 




117 




118 




119 




120 





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Fado; Lisboa 

Julian Santa-Rita - Acrylic 



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123 







Bad Bunny 

Sasha McBrayer - Photo 



124 




"Samurai: Duty Before Love" 

Sasha McBrayer - Print 



125 




Untitled 

Jamie Stone - Acrylic 



126 




Homeward 

Jeremy Windus - Photo 



127 




Shades of the Past #3 

Onica Kitchens - Graphite on Terracotta 



128 



calliope 



2004 





Calliope 2004 



Armstrong Atlantic State 

University 

Volume XX 



\RMSTB0N6 ATLANTIC 
"TATE UNIVERSIT 

- inns nv 



Staff 



Managing Editor 

Brandi Kincaid 

Art Editor 

Julian Santa-Rita 

Staff 

Kari Hunter 
Christi Vlk 

Faculty Advisor 

Dr. Christopher Baker 

Calliope is published annually by and for the 
students of Armstrong Atlantic State University. 
The Student Government Association of AASU 
provides funding for each publication. The 
Lillian Spencer Awards are chosen by the editors 
in each area of art, literature, and poetry, and 
are given out to outstanding talent in each year's 
collection. 

Submissions are collected throughout the 
fall semester for the following year's publication. 
Submissions should be placed in one of the drop 
boxes located around campus or emailed to the 
staff. All submissions are read and chosen 
through an anonymous process to ensure an 
equal opportunity for every student. For more 
information on submissions, or if you are inter- 
ested in working on the staff of the 2005 edition, 
please contact Dr. Christopher Baker in the 
Department of Language, Literature, and 
Philosophy located in Gamble Hall. 



What was any art but a mold in which 
to imprison for a moment the shining 
elusive element which is life itself- life 
hurrying past us and running away, 
too strong to stop, too sweet to lose. 

-Willa Cather 



Consider Icarus,... Admire his wings! 
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually 
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling 
into that hot eye. Who cares if he fell back to the sea? 
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down 
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town. 

-Anne Sexton 



Letter From the Editor 

While collecting submissions for this year's Calliope, I 
noticed that many students had a great deal of apprehension 
about other people viewing their creative work. With shaky 
hands, students from all different disciplines presented me with 
creative offerings, much of which had never before been shared. 
While we as a staff sat and pored over the stack of submissions, 
we were overcome by the immense amount of talent and vision 
that had been laboriously worked into each piece. With each 
story that kept us turning from page to page, intent on discover- 
ing what the end had in store, and every picture that we sat 
mesmerized by, we were reminded of the way each one of these 
students is brave. Like the mythical Icarus, these artists were 
brave to take a chance, to take their stories, photographs, paint- 
ings, and poems out from the hiding places where they had 
previously been kept. Poems once kept scribbled down in an old 
journal, stories used as outlets for emotions to which the spoken 
word cannot do justice, and photographs that were originally 
intended only as part of a classroom assignment were handed 
over to be shared with the artist's peers. It takes a great deal of 
courage to begin a creative career, and that is precisely where 
many of these authors and artists are: the beginning. Calliope 
serves as one of the first steps in the creative process for what 
may be some of the most talented new minds we may ever know. 
As a staff, we were proud to be able to read and select from this 
year's submissions. We are thankful to the students that took a 
risk and allowed their peers to share in their talent. James S. 
Kunan once wrote, "I get the idea, sometimes strongly, sometimes 
not, that I am involved in purposes not strictly my own. I under- 
stand that a lot of other people feel the same way, and since some 
of them are writers, there is a movement in literature which 
expresses this idea. And things go on." Whether it is in art or 
literature, I do believe there is a movement, a movement in which 
every person featured in this year's edition, including its readers, 
is a part of. It is my hope that this year's Calliope will serve as a 
creative outlet in which things may continue to go on. 



Table of Contents 



Adams, Emily 

Everyday but Sunday 63 
Adams, Maddy 

Inspiration 35 
Anderson, Alexxus 

Ode to Smoking 46 

To My Mother 69 

To My Father 69 
Bellflower, Karen 

The Essence of Man 66 
Berg, Steve 

Untitled 34 
Breneman, Jason * 

Broken Bough 26 
Broome, Emily 

Untitled 14 
Cardenas, Ilene 

The Jazz Club 67 
Helms, Samuel 

The Messanger of Death 72 
Houghton, Julie 

Untitled 68 
Huynh, Due Van 

Fatherless Seed 61 

Helpless 61 
Kymalainen, Sean 

Abyss 25 

Clouds 62 
Leidersdorf, Bill 

Untitled 24 
McBrayer, Sasha 

I Want Your Eyes 64 

Soiled 64 



Petrevitch, Anthony* 

AIDS In Love 12 

When Girls Cry 71 
Silverman, Shawna 

Drive 48 
Smith, Vicki 

Nazi Poets Masquerading As Gods 52 
St. Laurent, Melissa 

Untitled 13 
Stern, Megan 

Untitled 45 
Stevens, Amos 

The Parade 15 
Swinson, Stephanie 

Solitude 38 
Turpin, Jennifer 

Front of Car 47 
Ventura, Joseph 

This Is War Boys 53 
Whitley, BJ 

Clearview 33 



Photos printed on glossy insert are in order as 
follows: 

Reese, Ryan 

Untitled 
LeSage, Curtis 

Discreet Intentions 
Estes, Charles 

Untitled 
Hunter, Kari 

Lori 
Kenard, Jaime 

Chinatown 
Sherrod, Rebecca 

Untitled 



Sands, Stephanie 

Untitled 
LeSage, Curtis 

Last Flash at Dawn 
Farr, Bob * 

Stones 
Adams, Emily 

Untitled 



* Notes the winners of this year's Lillian Spencer 
Awards. 



14 




Calliope 15 

The Parade 

Amos Stevens 



The ring was a small gold boa constrictor choking 
his hand. Saul was over the bathroom sink tugging the 
stubborn ring. Even the thick glob of Vaseline could not 
release the ring from its uncomfortable grasp. There was 
no pain from the clutch of the ring, just annoyance. Its 
minimal weight was enough to bother Saul. He raised his 
head from the porcelain sink just in time to glimpse his 
reflection in the large oversized mirror. Sybil's glaring 
makeup lights blurred the tiny fissures given to him by 45 
years of life. He moved his wet Vaseline covered hand to 
the small white towel to the side. He had done his duty for 
the day. He had forced the ring upon his hand and had 
worn it to one of Sybil's events. He had taken the stranger 
out to validate his charade to the crowds. Now it was time 
to put the ring back in its small, silk shroud, but it 
wouldn't come off. 

Today, Saul spent the day trailing Sybil as she 
made the final changes to the St. Patrick's Day parade. He 
went from table helping to pick out pastel green from 
evergreen and viewing the crudely made elementary school 
floats. He hated them all, especially the wiry purple Power 
Ranger one. But everyone was so proud of their child's 
accomplishment, so Sybil entered it into the parade. Saul 
stood silently trying not to think of the deformed purple 
thing. This was Sybil's simple, motherly venture. He did 
not want to debate the lines of relevance with a woman 
who kept an empty room in their house for a child they 
could not have. 

Saul clutched his finger once more in a futile effort 
to release the ring. The ring did not move and his finger 
just inflated in size keeping the ring in its fixed position. 

"Saul, Saul, I need your help," Sybil yelled from the 
nearby den. Saul retreated from his struggle and walked 
into the living room. He could already smell the fresh 
smell of potpourri. The smell carried him carelessly 
through the hallway. He brushed past the dead, hanging 
roses, not noticing the crooked state on the wall in which 
he left them. The pristine eggshell creme walls were new 
from the living room's annual renovation. Sybil was 



16 

reconfiguring the barren wall with all her old pictures but 
Saul was curious. Sybil was holding an empty picture 
frame with bronze varnish. 

"What Sybil?" Saul asked. 

"I am probably going to take a picture of you in the 
parade next week and I just wanted to know if you thought 
I should put it above our wedding photo or below it." 

Sybil took a large step from the wall and tilted her 
head. Saul didn't know what she would do if he didn't give 
her an answer. She would be like the elephant ears or the 
spring ferns. She would sit still waiting for his motion for 
nourishment. Saul was the head of the house. These 
minute decisions were his to make. Saul never appreci- 
ated Sybil's oversimplification. Saul knew he could say to 
the side of the wedding photo, but there was never any 
deviation from Sybil's choices. She would echo the same 
question until she got her answer. Before Sybil could ask 
him again, he quickly picked his finger from his side in a 
blind guess. 

"Above." 

"Above? But don't you think that will be too high? 
I want people to see you leading the parade." 

She had to remind Saul. Saul felt the familiar 
knocks of fury beating at his head. In an effort to keep the 
vein coursing down his head from exploding, he deliber- 
ately tried to forget. While he was at the refreshment table 
spooning pineapple punch into his cup, Sybil had volun- 
teered him to lead the parade. Later that night he re- 
turned to her side to learn of what she took the liberty to 
do. At that moment he had felt his pulse pounding blood 
into his stiff body as he stood there holding back his hand 
from releasing the sticky, red drink all over her silky white 
dress. 

The image of her silky white dress ruined helped 
silence the pounding. Saul knew his untamed frustrations 
would do no good. Sybil could not understand. He didn't 
want to confront her pity for him. Her vain sigh could not 
help him. There would never be any questions of why 
there were no children captured in time on her wall of 
memories. He had no room in his heart for her pity. 

"People will see it better above the wedding picture, 
Sybil." 

"Yes, I suppose you are right," she said. "I am 
going to put another picture closer to the door. Maybe the 
one where you are carrying me out of the church. Do you 



Calliope 17 

know where it is?" 

"In the spare bedroom," said Saul. 

Saul knew the picture. It was centered in an old 
plain frame. He had suggested that she put it in the 
barren room. It was a time when he was ignorantly joyful. 
He was so proud to be stepping out of those high wooden 
church doors, the first breaths of new, crisp, winter morn- 
ing air piercing his lungs. It was a perfect wedding. Rice 
was thrown. Doves were released. There was no fury 
then, just anxiety and pride. Under her veiled face, he saw 
a comforting smile reaching towards its highest limits with 
tears escaping the joy of her eyes. Her frail hands 
trembled in her thin white gloves. She was a beautiful 
bride. 

But that was all shattered. The doctors would give 
him the cold, hard news as he sat motionless on the table. 
Saul was doomed to being a purposeless husband. No 
picture could capture Saul's hollowed heart. He no longer 
had a forward purpose in his life. His name was the only 
thing Saul could share with his wife, nothing more. 



Saul was just about finished with the Windsor knot 
in his tie when Sybil rushed over to the mirror to spray on 
some of her perfume. In Saul's life, every social event was 
preceded with a dinner. The parade was no exception. 
The dinner was at Peter Roman's plantation. Peter 
Roman's was large for the five children he had. Every time 
he and Sybil visited the mansion, Sybil hugged his chil- 
dren. They didn't remind Saul of children, just empty 
voids. One time when they all ate dinner at their own 
ebony table, Saul noticed that all moved their forks and 
knives in an almost mechanical way. This never alarmed 
Sybil. Sometimes table discussion would deal with whom 
the children were going to marry. Saul always stared at 
his food and joined the children in their mechanized 
eating. From time to time, he would hear giddy laughter or 
melodic sighs from his wife, but this was never more 
interesting than the meatloaf. 

Saul heard the gravel crunch beneath the Lexus 's 
tires. The long, manicured stony road was not long 
enough to hide the imposing view of the Roman's house. It 
was an old Victorian plantation house with smooth marble 
columns surrounding the outer rotunda. Sybil gingerly 



18 

stepped from the car cautious of the stony driveway. Along 
the trip, Saul had noticed her desperately trying to save 
her yellow sunflower dress from wrinkles. As he exited the 
car, Saul noticed that she had failed in her efforts. There 
was a collection of small lines edging their way across her 
back indicating where she had sat. He could feel a smile 
edge the outer rim of his lips. 

They made their way up the small steps of the 
stairs to the large oak door. Almost sensing their ap- 
proach, the youngest of the Roman's children opened the 
door. Saul stared into her empty eyes looking for a joyful 
youth, but all the apathetic child did was stand aside and 
allow Sybil to pore over her. 

"Welcome, Welcome," Peter said. Jeanne, go check 
your mother," Peter directed to the child. Sybil followed 
her small niece as she marched back to the kitchen with- 
out the slightest hint of a slouch in her back. "Would you 
like something to drink, Saul?" 

"No thanks," Saul said. A waft of liquor indicated 
that the bar had already been open. 

"I hear you're doing the parade thing this year?" 
asked Peter. 

"Yes." 

"Well, 111 be there," said Peter. "All the kids are 
doing something in it." Peter always had a way to remind 
Saul that he had children. They were always there as he 
entered, ate, and exited. They were Peter's trophies. He 
always had them positioned in the right place. Perhaps, it 
was for Sybil. 

"They say you'll be riding one of my horses." 

"Yes, which one?" Saul asked, thankful for the 
diversion from the children. 

"Goodwill." 

Peter was a horse trader and half of his expansive 
plantation was molded to suit the purposes of a ranch. 
Just as Saul was going to ask to see the horse, Jeanne 
entered the room. 

"Mommy says that dinner is ready." 

Saul followed the doll-like girl into the grand dining 
room. Each one of her steps on the hardwood floor was 
perfectly synchronized like a metronome. A reflection of 
Saul in his corduroy sports coat appeared in the large 
gold-framed mirror on the other side of the room. He 
casually walked past his image heavily hued with a white 
light by the large ornate chandelier. The room's new 



Calliope 19 

furnishing included a table that was almost as long as the 
room itself. No matter how many times they refurbished 
the house, they could not get rid of the sulfur smell left 
behind by the well water. The Romans' children sat as 
straight as their dinner utensils. They did not mutter a 
word as dinner was rolled out on silver carts. Sybil took 
pleasure in serving each of the children. She often 
reached over the table to make sure Michael had enough 
vegetable or gravy, speaking to him in annoying decibels 
and begging for a reaction. When everyone was settled and 
the plates were passed out, Peter Roman ordered Michael 
to recite a dinner blessing, which he did without so much 
as a misplaced pause. 

Peter muttered something or another about his 
hunting but Saul gave up on Peter's slurred language and 
full mouth. He was focused on the old ballroom mirror, 
which portrayed Sybil gleefully smiling as she questioned 
the children. He could make out her questioning them 
about school and about what they were going to do in the 
parade. They were part of the few children that were 
chosen to wave on the floats. Their pale mother sat as 
quiet as a corpse as the children cracked under Sybil's 
enthusiasm. The glimpses of lively children reflected in 
the mirror. Saul saw these kinds of questions as her 
nourishment. Saul knew her reaction was more of a caring 
aunt. The smiles of the normally quiet children were as 
close as she would ever be to being a mother. Saul 
thought this was the reason why Sybil dragged him to 
these dinners and forced him to lead the parade on his 
brother's horse. 



Saul walked past the crowded gates of Erasmus 
State College to the quad where floats were tightly packed 
in, waiting to be released onto abandoned streets. He 
could hear each individual trumpet warming up its cold 
brass horn. But that wasn't even enough to drown out 
Sybil's voice. 

"Make sure to hold onto the ropes, Saul. You don't 
want to pull out your back." 

"I have ridden a horse before, Sybil." 
"Well, you never know what can happen." 
He could feel the anger building up within him. 
The cold weather outside hid Saul's red face. Saul wanted 



20 

to tell her to shut up but he was still coping with the green 
and purple uniform that had been chosen for him to wear. 
He was not the only one. The Roman's horse was deco- 
rated with frilly ribbons and a ridiculous purple skirt. All 
the girls from the elementary school had braided its mane. 
Peter allowed one of the school groups to paint shamrock 
tattoos on its velvet legs. Still the majestic horse stood 
calmly as if unaware of its appearance. 

"Well she is the best one I got," Peter said as he 
threw the saddle over the horse's arched back. "She's 
gentle with riders," Peter continued. 

Saul kicked a few pins of the horse's skirt as he 
mounted. Sybil reached down and picked up the fallen 
pins. The horse sighed as she gently reapplied the pins 
back onto his skirt. 

"Make sure you wave, especially when you pass 
Lincoln Street," Sybil said with the camera hanging on her 
neck. 

Saul tugged gently at the reins to direct the horse 
from the front gates. The horse took easy, calm steps to 
avoid the ignorant parade participants in the quad. Saul 
enjoyed the clunking sound the horse's shoes made on the 
cold pavement. The crowds parted to the sound of the 
incoming horse. Saul exited the large metal gates of St. 
Erasmus to the first stoplight. The band assembled be- 
hind him filling up the empty space. Saul could hear the 
Drum Major ordering, "left front, left." Shortly after, the 
band blared its first stanza of the march. 

Saul moved down the street cautious not to tempt 
the horse's generosity. The appearance of the horse did 
not affect its tame magnificence. With a raised, cupped 
hand, Saul marched down the street as if Donatello had 
envisioned the horse's equestrian grace. Saul appreciated 
the horse's tolerance and its grace. He hardly recognized 
that he was coming up to Lincoln Street. He could barely 
see Sybil ready to take a picture as he passed the yellow 
blinking stoplight. He turned to the camera just enough to 
pose for the picture hoping that Sybil would be able to get 
it sitting behind the tall man in the front row. 

There were a half a dozen flashes coming from the 
side of the rode when he passed. He thought that Sybil's 
flash had to be at least one of them. Then suddenly, 
without warning, a young girl jumped out into the road 
with an orange pin. 

His horse bucked wildly from its rhythmic course to 



Calliope 21 

avoid the small, innocent girl that had impeded its proud 
march. The horse's nostrils flared up as wild as its marble 
eyes and cast Saul to the rough cold pavement. His awk- 
ward purple hat fell and rolled somewhere into the crowd. 
There was a clutter of random metal parts scraping to- 
gether coupled with the large disarray voiced by the mighty 
low brass from the marching band behind. Saul could feel 
the pain of every individual stone lodged into his side and 
face. The cadence of his heart pounded into his skull and 
fury engulfed him. He arose to his numb feet anxious to 
inflict pain on the girl who stood with her mouth gaping 
and her arms lying lifelessly to her side. She did not move 
as Saul grabbed her by those arms and put his face close 
to hers. 

But then he saw. Those two pearly eyes held an 
image of Saul so small, so shaded by the dark abyss of her 
pupil, but at the same time so truthful to its portrayal of 
detail. There was no facade protecting his face and there 
were no social lights shining in the background of her 
eyes. Nothing could obscure the details presented in those 
cold, dark, fearful pupils. Between those wiry black eye- 
lashes and wide amber spectacles, he saw a man en- 
trenched in his own bitterness, his own self-guilt, and his 
own self-anger. This child who had only wanted to pin her 
gaudy orange pin on the horse's purple skirt couldn't hide 
Saul's heartless soul. He could feel her racing pulse 
through those strained arms and could see the glistening 
dewdrop sweat making wet tracks down the side of thinly 
ridged eyebrows. Then slowly a single shining drop fell 
from Saul's mirror. 

Saul gently released the child from his cold 
clutches. Her small clammy fingers dropped the orange 
pin and she quickly scurried back to her crying mother 
whose shrieks of horror were clouded by the band. Saul 
leaned down and picked up the pin in hopes of returning it 
to its owner but it was too late. The child had disappeared 
in the myriad of bodies wearing blue and green fabric. 

Saul looked at his now calm and composed horse 
standing as if it had never been frightened. It sat still 
bowing its head in a majestic manner. 

"Would you get going already?" cried the impatient 
Drum Major. By then, the members of the trumpet line 
had already raised their horns and begun to play the 
march. 

Saul's mind filled up with a million replies but none 



22 

seemed to funnel its way down to his mouth. He quickly 
mounted the ornate horse without the aid of any bystand- 
ers and rode down the street not realizing where his purple 
hat could be. 



Saul recognized the hallowed gates of his alma 
mater as he exited from the parade. He wandered around 
the campus in search of his old bench. When he found the 
bench, he hardly recognized it. It had lost its black finish. 
He plopped his sore and bruised butt down on the bench. 
He felt the snag of every old weathered nail but his legs' 
relief was enough to coax the uneasy pain. 

Sybil interrupted; rushing towards Saul, her heels 
pounding the pavement with a random meter. 

"Where have you been? I have been looking all over 
for you!" 

"Here, just here." 

"Oh, all right," she replied. "I heard about the 
horse. Are you alright?" 

"Remember when we first met?" 

"What?" 

"You know it was somewhere over there by the 
campus chapel." 

"Well, the chapel isn't there anymore. They built a 
new one over there." 

"Yes, yes they did," replied Saul. "You were over 
there doing something or another." 

"Oh, I was taking a vote for the parade. Either you 
could vote for — " 

"Yes, exactly," Saul did not want to hear another 
vote-by-vote analysis of the colors of the parade that year. 
"Well I have something to admit." 

Saul looked into her vivid green eyes. They were so 
full of life and content. She arched herself up for Saul's 
next words. 

"I am sorry," said Saul. 

"Sorry for what?" 

"I am sorry you are an aunt and not a mother." 

"Saul," Sybil said, her eyes turning into glassy 
marbles. 

"But you're my husband, Saul." 

She turned to him and embraced him. He hugged 
his wife back inhaling the deep perfume. Through her frail 
frame, he could feel the gentle cadence of her heart. He 



Calliope 23 

felt the gentle patter of her heart speaking out to his 
reminding him of a cool, crisp, winter morning that he had 
once experienced. 



24 




Calliope 25 

Abyss 

Sean Kymalainen 



So many passages, 
With doors I can't count. 
Where's the end of the maze? 
Where's the top of the mount? 

The confusion that rules, 
While I search and I weave, 
Lends a pause by the door, 
Though my heart says believe. 

Down a blind alley, 
There is a dead end. 
Which way is out? 
What does this portend? 

Eyes that don't see, 
And ears that don't hear, 
Although my senses are dull, 
I possess mind-numbing fear. 

From whence I have come, 
I haven't a clue. 
Where I must go, 
Is what is my due. 

The doors have been barred, 
With no lock and no key. 
I cannot get through, 
I cannot be free. 

Little by little, 
Eyes that grow dim, 
No more to be said, 
A fall by the rim. 



26 

Broken Bough 

Jason Breneman 



The bus stopped where Stocksdairy road met 
Flowing Well long enough to open its door and rid itself of 
a single passenger. 

"Just like Mrs. Scott used to do," thought Silas 
Stocks as he stepped through the vortex of dust and diesel 
fumes in the wake of the groaning, impatient machine. 
"Only then the bus was yellow instead of white." 

He cinched his green duffel bag tight around one 
shoulder for the mile or so to the old place, not even 
pausing to wonder at the row of new houses recently built 
up on the cleared land by the paved road, to his right as he 
faced forward. He pressed on down Flowing Well, eyes 
fixed somewhere between the dirt in front of him and the 
horizon above. 

The same familiar odor of honeysuckle sweetened 
the still, humid air he strained through puffy nostrils. To 
his left the yellow flowers dotted a mass of tangled green 
that slid over and around trees, swallowing the rotted wire 
and oak fence posts. Though no one had tended that land 
in several years, the honeysuckle still never as much as 
touched the ground on the other side of that old fence. 
Instead, a bare, tangled mass of black roots grasped the 
barren gap of orange sand between the fence and the road. 

He marched on, kicking up faint whitish rust- 
colored dust over black boots. To his right, scattered 
voices of children wove through the remaining pines not 
yet cleared and sold behind the row of neat fenced-in 
yards. He could hear them laughing at him playing, each 
in his own shiny pen. 

Something about it all, though, failed to reach him. 
As he trod steadily on, he acknowledged none of the famil- 
iar and foreign place he passed through. He wasn't even 
really sure what would meet him at the end of this road he 
had walked down so many times before. This time there 
was no one else here with him, and certainly no one he 
wanted to see who wasn't in jail or underground. 

He thought of his brother: 

I remember . . . I was younger . . .Josey was just 



Calliope 27 

three or four... He got in trouble for refusing to pick up his 
messy room. Momma had tried everything: pleading with 
him, yelling, threatening punishment; Joseph just laughed 
when she spanked him. I was in the yard playing with a 
few G.I. Joes when the old man came home. I heard the 
door slam as he entered, and his raised voice as he de- 
manded for Momma to tell him what was going on. I heard 
him get louder. He was going to find Josey and I knew that 
even he didn 't know what he would do with him. . . . Their 
three detached voices: Joseph still refusing to obey, my 
mother pleading with both of them, trying to stop the situa- 
tion, and my father's booming voice rattling the old house 
and carrying out, slowly muffled, over the trees. 

I remember wishing that Joseph would just quit, that 
he would just do what he was told. But of course he 
wouldn 't. You could hear my father just snatch him up. The 
first couple times he hit him, you could hear nothing but a 
dull thump over my mother's screeching voice; not a sound 
from my four- year -old brother. 

But then I remember him breaking, like we all eventu- 
ally did, and letting out just a slow, dim whimper, which 
didn 't stop; it seems like it hasn 't to this day. Every time I 
looked at him I heard it, and would be always back in that 
day, alone, in the yard, crying in the mud. 



His brother was grown now; he hadn't seen him 
since he had joined the army and left this place for what 
he thought would be forever. "Shit," Silas thought to 
himself, "Seven years. . ." 

Silas reached the beaten driveway and his eyes fell 
on the faded yellow house. It looked smaller than he 
remembered, and quiet. The old shed still stood back 
behind the house, before the great oak. The steel cattle 
barn was still there too, defiantly standing between the 
shed and the oak. The rusty streaks on the sides of the 
metal, twisted and torn with age and weather, still shined 
and little, like the... 

The cold breath of the place he had forgotten 
swirled around him, splitting his thoughts and passing 
through his gut, spinning itself into a cold, hard ball that 
pressed against his knotted stomach. A part of him fought 
against the memory he should have seen coming. Looking 



28 

on at the place for the first time, it came back to him like a 

ghost: 

The old man was shaving with a pearl handled 
straight razor he had had for years. He listened half- 
heartedly to his wife 's end of the conversation with Mr. 
Perdue. 

"She said what? . . . Touched her how? . . . But she 's 
only ten years old! . . . You can 't honestly believe that! No, I'm 
sorry, I just have a hard time believing my Silas. . . No, just, 
please, let me talk to him first. " 

Straightening up, he bit his lip and clenched his fist 
as the woman 's words reaffirmed what he already sus- 
pected. His fist shook, and the metal blade against his face 
drew a slow bright stream of red over thick foam. . . 

. ..Like a furious beast he invaded the room where the 
two almond-haired boys sat, blankly watching television. He 
gripped the bigger, rounder of the two by the scruff of the 
neck and yanked him from the room, heels kicking and 
dragging across the wood-planked floor. The younger 
followed, crying out and punching at his father's legs in 
protest. The man kicked at him, then threw the other at the 
screen door, out in the yard, and followed after him, fueling 
himself with cursing affirmations of the righteousness of his 
anger; muttering both sides of the argument since the boy 
remained silent, staring blankly ahead. Blind with rage and 
absolutely determined, he resumed his grip on his son and 
continued on into the October dusk. 

"Where are you taking me?" 

"We 're going to settle this. " 

"Settle what? How?" 

"Oh, I'll figure out something, I damn guarantee it. " 

The man 'sface was still smeared with a foamy lather 
from the shaving job he quit, and the white foam gathered 
with a furious sweat, pooling and bubbling around the 
corners of his mouth as he cursed and spat through curled 
lips. Silas could hear his brother's cries through the torn 
screen door, and by them he metered the distance his father 
had dragged him out into the silent dusk. He felt his weight 
bear against his father's beast-like frame as it gaited, ape- 
like, along. He could see himself dragged like an old burlap 
sack of peanuts by his father's dark gorilla arms. Through 
the autumn light escaping, he caught a shimmering glimpse 
of a metallic edge in his father's furious red clinched fist. 

Outside himself, he couldn 't remember feeling any- 
thing. Only the gaping metal grin of that damned cattle 



Calliope 29 

barn, laughing at him, and his father's shaking red arm 
swinging over him, cutting them, back and forth, back and 
forth... 



Supposedly Josey did it; finally killed him, accord- 
ing to what word still got around. Met him after another 
one of his drunken weekend binges. Right as he was 
stepping out of his truck, Josey caught him across the 
head with an axe handle. Beat him so bad, the cops had 
to ask Josey who he was. After what the old man did to Ma, 
I guess he had it coming. Silas heard that when the cops 
cuffed him and took him away, he was smiling; he was 
smiling the whole time. 

"Damned Josey, you got more balls than me." 

He walked around the old property that called itself 
his home. The house was a wreck of timber, old paint, 
electricity that tempted fate and the fire department with 
the fact that it was still standing. Around back, in the old 
shed, things were vaguely like he had remembered them, 
only scattered now and blanketed in the dust of neglect. 
Vines wrapped 'round the building, but rotted inside for 
want of light. His eyes took a moment to focus through the 
dust and dark, then led him across the floor to the old 
wood burning stove, up to the mantle above. 

There, on the rotting wooden shelf, between the two 
musket balls, white with age and covered in dust, sat the 
old brass belt buckle. Its shiny patina cast off a greenish- 
gold light. He took the metal oval in his hand, catching the 
glare off the afternoon sun. He felt the slick, oily finish 
that didn't rub off filth on his hands; unlike anything else 
in the tattered shack. On the mantle, behind where the 
buckle had sat, a finger had scrawled out into the dust: 
"For my brother." 

"That's just like Josey..." thought Silas. 

Silas stood there for a moment reflecting on the 
buckle that he and his friends had found in that same 
place not so many years ago. It was their treasure then, 
an artifact of time past that was all their own. When they 
looked at it they felt some kind of source that they didn't 
understand but could tap their roots into. 

"That was all just stupid kid garbage," he said to 
himself now. He thought of the buckle then in the hands 



30 

of his father, swung on the end of a belt at him. He re- 
membered the rage within him then; the hate he felt for 
the old man. How he had vowed that when he was strong 
enough he would do something; he would eat the pain that 
bastard brought into the world. 

Now his demon was gone, following in death the 
woman he sent to eternity before him, leaving on this earth 
just the two brothers: one in jail and this one, here, now. 
He felt around within himself for something that hurt, 
some kind of fresh pain about the whole situation that he 
could take and hold as some righteous justification for 
anger that he so terribly wanted to feel. But there was 
nothing there in his whole cold body to hold on to. Josey 
had done it; the old man was dead. I went on forever with 
just that old man to hate, and nothing else. Now, what do I 
do? What happens when there is no hate anymore, just an 
empty sickness? 



Silas unloaded himself onto the greasy wooden 
workbench and untied and removed his black leather 
boots, dusted now in a reddish-white powder. He sat then 
together under the bench, familiarly knocking against an 
old wooden box. 

"The same...?" 

He grabbed the rope handle and flipped the box 
onto the floor. Tipping over, it spewed its contents out 
amongst the dusty and rusty nails. Through the mess 
tumbled a cedar case, carved in a pattern as familiar as his 
fingerprints. He popped the latch and twisted it open. 

"For my Silas." The yellowed note fluttered to the 
floor. From the case he gingerly lifted the soft yellow 
chain, listening to its slight serpentine whisper as its links 
softly fell along in tandem. A jewel at the end of the chain 
glistened like a beetle's back, lit up and made of water. 

Silas knew his mother had always wanted a daugh- 
ter; she had told him so. Just the two boys were all God 
and her husband had given to her. When the day came 
that she knew she would not bear any more children with 
that man, she sat it in the case and gave it to her eldest 
son; there, alone, away from his father or his brother. 

"This will be for your wife, someday," she had told 
him, back when "someday" seemed the same as eternity. 

"It was your grandmother's. She was an old Creek 



Calliope 31 

Indian, you know. Her people 've been here since before the 
trees and the rocks, even. " Silas held the delicate chain in 
his hand. He let the links slink down through his fingers, as 
if on their own accord. 

"They met De Soto when he came up the Flint River. 
Did you know that? She gave me this necklace right before 
she died; Lord knows how she got it and kept it hid. " 

His mother sat therefor a moment with a grin and 
shook like a house of cards. Silas looked at her and knew 
she was in one of her moments, when her heart was on 
something far away from what she was saying. He watched 
her eyes well up a little, then as she looked off and down at 
the floor. 

"Your father's a good man, she whispered almost 
only to herself, "He 's a good man. " Her repetition was not 
lost on Silas. Even at a young age, he recognized her actions 
for what they were: the weak words of one who dealt with 
the world she hated by contriving one that wasn 't there. 

She moved her eyes back to Silas like she was 
waking up again to the world she was in. 

"You know, besides me and Josey, this is about the 
only real proof that the woman ever graced this earth. Now, 
you keep this somewhere safe; I want the next person in the 
world who sees this to be the one girl you want to give it to. 
You understand?" 

"Yes ma 'am. " 

Silas set down the wooden case and wrapped the 
golden chain three times around his wrist. He brought the 
dark and glimmering stone up to his lips and kissed it. 

"Sorry to let you down, ma." 



Silas kicked open the door and stepped out into the cool 
autumn air. He took in the sight of his old house: the 
torn screen door, the galvanized steel tub they used to 
swim in. He turned and looked up the hill to the great 
oak. The rope he had hung up himself swayed hypnoti- 
cally in the breath of the early eve. The tire was long gone; 
now, only the tattered end of rope fluttered at him like a 
horse's tail after flies. 

He stared at it as he walked up the hill, towards the 
tree. He remembered how the acorns used to scrape and 
pierce his tender feet when he and his brother used to 
come up here to play. He used to come up here alone, 



32 

cradled like a baby in the old oak's branches. 

He thought of a long time ago, in the tree happy 
and alone, climbing in its great gnarled branches. lean 
spend all the time I want exploring and staring at the ants as 
they course around through the ridged bark. They crawl 
over my hands and arms and they do not harm me. I do not 
worry about what is going on with people and things else- 
where, and I couldn 't even see the ground below if I did 
bother to take my eyes off the branches or the dancing 
shadowy shapes above. Instead there is just a notion of a 
faint green sea beyond me. 

He used to lie on his back on the great limbs, 
letting the whispers of the light drift through the leaves as 
tickle his face as he drifted off to sleep. "That's what I 
want," he thought. "To sleep." 

In the tree, his now callused hands felt the same 
ridged bark of the old familiar tree. His arms carried him 
mindlessly up to the branch he had climbed up long ago 
and hung that rope himself, in the face of one of his 
father's many drunken promises. He inched away along 
the crooked, mossy branch, feeling the wind whisper 
through the leaves. 

His hands found the end of the rope on the branch 
and pulled it up. Unnoticed, they felt at its thick, woven 
braids, then he quietly coiled the rope three times under 
his chin. It felt snug and tight, like a hug from an ancient 
ancestor. He felt the warm in their arms, and he trusted 
it. He let his eyes close and his body go limp as he lay in 
the branch. 

He held his head back, feeling blood rush suddenly 
to his head. His eyes flickered shut as he felt the peace of 
the whispering breeze and the last warm light of the sun 
through the swaying branches. Upside-down and quiet, he 
released his grip from the tree. 



He never felt the rope snap him like a whip and the 
unforgiving coils constrict after each faint, labored breath. 
Still, he did not struggle against it; he wasn't even aware of 
it. Neither did he feel his senses dull and his cursed 
memories whisper away, forever torn as his soul flickered 
and whispered away like a vein of smoke from a snuffed 
out candle, finally peaceful at home. 



Calliope 33 

Clearview 

B.J. Whitley 



I never really noticed 

you were not there 

but now everything is clearer 

and I laugh out loud 

and you couldn't really handle this 

a love like mine is hard to take 

111 not be yours any longer 

as you slip so soundly away 

into the clear view... 




Steve Berg - Untitled silver gelatin print 



Calliope 35 

Inspiration 

Maddy Adams 



In response to John Braine's statement: 

"You must never wait for inspiration before you write. 

It isn't that inspiration doesn't exist, but it comes only with 

writing." 



Inspiration, well inspiration is 

Why I started writing. 

As an adolescent sitting in 

a boring math class with 

a pencil in my hand 

my emotions booming from 

pubescent hormones. 

My mind stirring from anger. 

-I hate my dad. 

-I hate my school. 

-I want to laugh. 

-but that ain't cool. 

Inspiration, well inspiration 

Didn't strike me to take math class, 

I was forced. 

And in being forced, I loath 

To do numbers. 

To force writing, to force 

Myself to write, well what 

Do I gain, force is not 

Fun, force doesn't make 

Me want to do it now or 

Later or have it right. 

To force means to make contrived, 

Plastic like a dictatorship. 

It's not iron- It has 

No heart- It's not individuality, 

It's not me. 

And most of all it's not 

what comes natural. And 

Nature is beauty not for 



36 



Its perfection but how 

It grows effortlessly 

Spiraling out to the world 

Being itself, being individual 

Being free to have those 

Imperfections that make 

It die or make it 

Genius to live through 

The next age. 

Inspiration, well inspiration 

Is emotion 

Emotion is individual 

Individual id freedom. 

So Mr. John Braine 

111 wait. 

For I don't write for you 

Nor do I write for she or he 

I write for myself. 

I write when I want. 

And I don't care if I'm good 

Nor do I care if I'm bad. 

The only reason I 

Write is for enjoyment. 

And if I don't enjoy it 

Then I write for school grades. 

And it just so happens 

That the only time I enjoy 

Writing is when I'm inspired 

By emotion- not that I 

Make false emotion 

Through fake inspiration 

Through fake writing 

Through fake flaking 

Through plastic and yarn 

And smoke of an old man yawn 

Strewn across a wall like spattered paint 

That makes no picture 

Unless it's fixed and makes everything 

A comet twisting in mad directions 

Flying across the universe 

No perfection in circles 

But perfection in ovals 

And crash explosion 

Bits flying and splattering 



Calliope 37 

Across a wall no pattern 

A moon crater ruddy from 

Underlying plates, twisting 

And turning, making moon 

Earthquakes- rumbling sound 

Waves that slide through 

Space in a perfect circle 

Except for the small pulsing 

The waves make, as they fly effortlessly 

Through the vacuum until they 

Hit an object 

A planet, a comet, a sun, 

An ocean. The sound waves 

Make ocean waves- waves that 

Spiral through a dolphin's sensitive 

Ears- waves making more waves 

A gentle rustling that hits the 

Sand. Movement of conch 

Shells on the beach. A man, 

A woman-love- and the intense 

Feeling of space, the ocean wound 

In spirals of one shell to one ear. 

So yes, Mr. John Braine 

111 wait. 



38 
Solitude 

Stephanie Swinson 



Scoldings and reprimands whizzed through Toby's 
mind like rocket ships. Alex was supposed to be here three 
hours ago. He promised we'd play today. Tobias Stevens 
sat irritably on the front porch of Sunny Brook Orphanage 
waiting for his brother to return from his paper route and 
play catch. 

Toby and Alex were identical twins. But to Toby, 
they were more like two halves of the same person. They 
often had that crazy twin stuff happen to them: Alex would 
skin his knee three blocks away and Toby would fall over 
with unexpected pain, or someone at school would ask a 
seemingly abstract question and Toby and Alex would 
answer the same thing at the same time. It freaked other 
people out but Toby was always proud. He and Alex would 
just look at each other and laugh while everybody else 
stood around looking confused. 

Despite being so much alike, sometimes they were 
completely opposite. For example, Toby was right handed 
and really good at math; but Alex was left handed and he 
could draw anything he saw, and make it more beautiful 
than in real life. That's why Toby liked his two-halves-of- 
the-same-person theory, because together, they made up 
the perfectly rounded person. 

Even their names made up a total person. Accord- 
ing to their mother, he was the most wonderful person who 
ever lived-Tobias Alexander King-Alex and Toby's great- 
grandfather. At one time he was a tall, strong man who 
stood with dignity and confidence. Their mother used to 
comment on how much Toby and Alex looked like her 
beloved grandfather with their fire-engine-red hair and 
buttery skin. 

Toby sat on the edge of a squeaky wooden rocking 
chair waiting to see that familiar bright red hair come 
around the curve. He strained to see all the way down the 
clay path looking for any sign of his brother's return. 
Everything seemed to converge into a single pinpoint of 
darkness, and Toby was in a constant battle of losing and 






Calliope 39 

regaining his focus. He anxiously twisted and prodded his 
baseball glove, stretching it and balling it back up again. 
Tobias was beginning to worry about his brother. He 
couldn't remember Alex ever being so late to play catch. 

Toby and Alex were sent to Sunny Brook on Janu- 
ary 17, 1943, the day their mother died in a car accident. 
They were eight years old. Their father had been killed at 
Pearl Harbor only two years before, and they had no other 
living family members to take them in. They got used to a 
dormitory type existence with communal television rooms, 
activity times, and even shared showers. It wasn't so bad 
because there were never a lot of kids there; only a handful 
of regulars and the occasional new kid. There were a lot of 
babies brought into Sunny Brook, but they were usually 
either adopted or sent to other orphanages around Wyo- 
ming where they had a better chance of being adopted. 

Toby and Alex kept to themselves for the most part. 
By the time they were ten, their roommate Frankie moved 
out to live with some uncle that the home had found in 
Florida, so Toby and Alex had a room to themselves. They 
had a few friends at school, but Toby didn't like many 
people messing with him and his brother. He felt that 
nobody else could understand what they had known. 
None of the other kids at school even had a clue that life 
could take away your mother and fling you into a world of 
generic cruelly, all in the same day. Nobody at the or- 
phanage could understand the bond shared by twin broth- 
ers who were more like two halves of the same person than 
separate people. 

Alex didn't mind people as much as Toby did. He 
would tell jokes to the boys and draw pictures of some of 
the girls. Toby could maybe understand talking to some of 
the guys, but he thought he never would understand Alex's 
attention to those stupid, prissy girls. 

That's why it really shocked Toby when Alex asked 
the orphanage director about a paper route job that was 
posted on the downstairs bulletin board. "Alex, why on 
earth would you want a job?" Toby asked bewildered "Don't 
sign us up for that. We'd have to get up at like 5:00 in the 
morning. Are you crazy?" 

Alex's eyes were simultaneously sympathetic and 
frustrated. "I didn't sign us up, I signed me up. And I 
won't have to get up early. Mr. Baker said I could deliver 
papers after school." 



40 

"No way. You can't do it after school! When will we 
play catch? How will you have time to get your studies 
done?" 

"Look Toby, I promise that well play catch after I 
get back from my paper route every Friday, Saturday, and 
Sunday Afternoon." Alex placed his hand on his brother's 
shoulder. "This is just something I have to do... you 
know... on my own." A response stuck in Toby's throat. 
He had wanted to tell Alex that he didn't know; he had no 
idea what Alex was thinking. He wanted to say that he was 
afraid to be alone. Afraid to lose the only real thing in his 
life, but Toby didn't know how to say what he wanted. So 
he just smiled down at the old wooden floor and shrugged 
his shoulders feebly. 

As Toby waited on the front porch, he replayed that 
scene in his mind. He tried to imagine what he could have 
done differently to talk his brother out of the paper route. 
It was the first time Toby could remember his brother ever 
letting him down. Toby felt the pang of separation as he 
realized that they might be growing apart. Don 't think about 
that, Toby told himself, concentrate on the game. It was 
getting late and Toby was afraid that there wouldn't be 
enough daylight to play by the time Alex got back. 

Toby was interrupted from his thoughts as he 
heard a squeak behind him and the front door slowly 
opened. He turned to see an old man wobbling out onto 
the porch. "Hi Tobias. We were all about to play cards 
and the nurse told me to see if you want to join us." 

"No thank you. I'm waiting on my brother" was 
Toby's reply. 

"That's just fine, Tobias, but maybe you could wait 
inside while you play a hand of Gin with the rest of us." 
Toby glanced up wildly. He'd been warned against persis- 
tent strangers. And he couldn't figure out how this one 
knew his name. 

"I'm sorry Mister. I'm not supposed to talk to 
strangers," Toby replied taking note of the old man's 
grotesque ear hair and toothless grin for future identifica- 
tion. 

The old man wobbled closer and sank slowly down 
into a rocking chair. "Look, Tobias, I just want to be your 
friend." 

Toby looked away pretending not to hear the old 
man for a second. He considered running inside for help; 



Calliope 41 

but he didn't want to get caught up in a lot of commotion 
and miss his brother. So he decided to stand strong. 

"I don't need no friends. I got Alex. That's all I 
need." 

"Fine." The old man shook his head as he eased 
out of the chair and started back inside. Just before he 
opened the door, he turned back to Toby. "Your brother's 
not coming, you know?" 

How did that crazy coot get in here? Toby wondered. 
He thought again about telling some of the caretakers, but 
quickly reconsidered, deciding that the old man was 
probably just someone's grandfather. He settled back into 
the hard rocking chair and resumed his watch for his 
brother. 

Toby sat on the front porch for another hour before 
finally deciding to go back inside to his room. It was 6:30 
and already almost too dark to play catch. Alex must have 
gotten caught up by some giggly girl. He is probably sitting 
there right now, drawing her picture instead of getting back 
home to play with his brother like he promised. When Toby 
tried to get up, he realized that his limbs were stiff and his 
muscles ached. He grunted as he pressed all of his weight 
down on the handles of the rocking chair, finally catapult- 
ing himself to standing. Gosh I guess I've been in that chair 
longer than I realized. I'd probably be too stiff by now to 
play catch anyway. 

Toby made his way back to his room. He was 
stomping and grumbling under his breath when he ran 
smack into a lady who worked at the home. She was 
beautiful to Toby — very petite with dark brown hair and 
perfect pale skin, just like Snow White. Toby liked to think 
that she looked like his mother, but secretly, he couldn't 
remember what his mother looked like anymore. "Mr. 
Stevens, where have you been? We're all about to play a 
round of Gin don't you want to join the others?" 

"No thank you Mrs. French. I'm waiting for my 
brother. We're going to play catch if it's not too late when 
he gets back." 

"Oh," she said quietly with a sympathetic nod. She 
paused and looked down for a second as if trying to make 
a decision. Finally she continued "Okay, Mr. 
Stev...um...Toby. Let's get you to your room. You can rest 
until your brother returns." 

Mrs. French never made him take part in activities 
with the others if he didn't feel like it. Toby thought that 



42 

she really understood him. Because of that, she was his 

second favorite person in the world, after Alex of course. 

When he got to the door of his room, Toby stopped 
short. He heard someone humming inside... not humming, 
listening to the radio. He burst in with relief and excite- 
ment. "Alex! I've been waiting all day. How did you get 
by..." Toby stood staring into the surprised eyes of some- 
one who was definitely not Alex. Toby's mind raced, trying 
to sort through the confusion. "Frankie? When did you 
get back? I thought you went to live with your uncle." 

"My uncle?... Why would I..." 

"Your uncle... in Florida. Mr. Baker found your 
uncle so you won't be an orphan no more. You left us six 
months ago." Toby stood confused and defiant. 

"All my uncles are dead, man. I'm your roommate 
but I don't reckon I'm no orphan." 

Toby's face turned red. Frankie can 't be back. It will 
mess up everything. "Alex and me have this room to 
ourselves now. You got to get out Frankie. Alex is coming 
back soon and he won't like you back in our room." 

" Who is going to do what to who? Man, you talking 
crazy again." 

Toby watched as his roommate reached back 
behind himself to press a red button on the wall marked 
EMERGENCY. Toby stumbled as his focus blurred on the 
big red button. A feeling rushed over him, like deja vu, 
sickly familiar. 

Toby heard a slight ringing in his head as he swag- 
gered to his bed, lost in a cloud that cradled his mind. He 
fought the confusion to find reason. He strained for some- 
thing real to emerge from the scattered ideas that were 
flashing before him. They were speeding up from black 
depths like flashes of light only to slow to a snail's pace 
before his mind's eye so that he was forced to live his 
memories in unrelenting agony. 

First he saw his mother's dead body: pale and 
pasty, encircled by flowers, her hair not fixed right, her 
lipstick too bright, and the worried frown that her face 
wore as she lay in that coffin lined in pink polyester. Toby 
was eight again and he wanted to get in the coffin too. He 
wanted to hold his mamma until she woke up from her 
bad dream — or until he woke up from his. Toby watched 
as the image of his dead mother began to speed up until it 
was nothing but shooting light again, and it shot away 
leaving a faint trail. 



Calliope 43 

Behind it there were scattered, sparse images of 
Sunny Brook; their room, drab green and white walls 
pathetically decorated with images of Alex and Toby's 
favorite cowboys; Frankie with his giant nose and thick 
glasses; playing catch on hot afternoons; Mrs. French; 
lemonade; Alex's laugh, his cry. Then the memories of 
Sunny Brook sped up and whizzed quickly through Toby's 
mind as if they had somewhere else to be. 

Then he saw Alex getting older, his paintings, his 
perfect daughter Emily, his dog named King.... Toby saw 
himself, walking slowly through a maze of caskets. He 
could hear the funeral director's voice growing from a faint 
mosquito's whine to a loud slow drone. He was explaining 
the merits of the different caskets, specifically, the 
Chl21 — Red Mahogany "...and the body rests on silk lined, 
white, goose down." What body? Toby saw himself, twenty- 
seven years old, alone except for the funeral director, 
crying. What body? Why was... Alex. Alex was dead. Killed 
himself. Toby had felt the bullet — as if it had entered his 
own brain — the second it happened; even though he was 
forty-seven miles away. He had forgotten. How could I 
have forgotten? With realization came shame for having 
forgotten; and a tremendous pain, as if he were hearing 
the news for the very first time. How many times will I 
forget and have to remember? How may times have I forgot- 
ten already? 

Tobias woke up screaming. His cold wet body was 
clenched in a fetal position with no other fetus to make 
him whole. Everything was encircled in a glow of flores- 
cent harshness and Toby ached. His stomach felt like it 
had been ripped from inside him; his chest burned with 
bitter agony. There were two doctors and several nurses 
hovering over him, asking him questions and fidgeting 
around his naked body. But Tobias could only cry. His 
pain would not allow anything else. 

"Mr. Stevens, Do you know what day it is?" 
"You were out for a while. Can you hear me?" 
Off to the side he heard the murmurs of nurses. 
"His dementia is getting worse." 

In the far corner he watched an old man chattering 
away to one of the nurses and clutching a cane so hard, 
his knuckles had turned bright white, "...that's right, 
Frankie. I don't know why but he was calling me Frankie; 
and talking about some uncle or something. Then he 



44 

started with that Alex stuff again and I did just like they 

told me..." 

A closer, soft voice sang over the old man's speech. 
"It's okay Toby. We're giving you a sedative. You'll be 
better tomorrow. We're all here for you." This last voice 
contained so much compassion and truth, that it caused 
Tobias to look up in its direction — Mrs. French... no..., Mrs. 
Earl — not from Sunny Brook Orphanage but instead from 
Shady Oaks Retirement Community. Her face was kind. As 
she tilted her head to one side, her tortoise-shell glasses 
reflected the florescent light and Tobias saw himself re- 
flected in them too — not a nine year old boy, but a sixty- 
seven year old man. His screams turned to sobs. For a 
moment, Tobias' mind was completely clear. In it was a 
pure understanding of all of the horror and beauty of life. 
He was a sixty-seven year old man who had lost his other 
half forty years prior and was suffering from a mentally 
debilitating disease. But he knew he'd be happy again, just 
as soon as he forgot. He sank sadly into a heap. The 
injection was working and soon he was asleep. 

The next morning Toby awoke from a long and deep 
sleep. He scurried over to his closet and put on his favor- 
ite outfit. He picked up his old baseball glove off the floor. 
He wondered how it got there and thought Mrs. French 
would be awfully angry if she knew he'd been so messy. 
On his way out to the front porch, he recognized one of the 
girls from the female dorms in the orphanage. He stopped 
only for a second. "Hey Tobias, where are you going? Don't 
you want to watch The Price Is Right ?" 

"I don't have time to talk now, Nancy. I got to go 
meet my brother. It's Saturday. We're playing catch as 
soon as he gets back from his paper route." With that, 
Toby obliviously waddled to the porch to await his 
brother's return. 



Calliope 



45 




Megan Stern - Untitled silver gelatin print 




46 

Ode to Smoking 

Alexxus Anderson 



Broken chain smoke, 

Nicotine fits, a riot in my blood takes over my brain 

forcing concession to a cigarette break. 

Florescent lights to sunshine, 

boxed life to open air, 

air full of the smell of 

Newports and Marlboros, Pall Mall's and CTs, scents from 

Paradise. 

The riots cease, 

as all go on a fun in the sun vacation where deep breaths 

of the 

air are common. 

Great way to get away from the workday 

out to pollute myself and the world, 

a smoke break. 



Calliope 



47 




Jennifer Turpin - "Front of Car" - silver gelatin print 



48 
Drive 

Shawna Silverman 



It's late, but you drive. The highway is an alien 
landscape awash with jewels this moonless night. It has 
seen no other cars in the blue-black Georgia morning. You 
have crossed north, then South Carolina, one then the 
other with grim resolve. When sleep threatens an open 
window and a quick smack or two across the face does the 
trick. For a few hours, you listened to the radio and sang 
along with Bob Dylan and the Beatles, distracted from 
your course until the hours wore on and one song slumped 
seamlessly into the next. The music is internal now, one 
song after another from your childhood, half-buried under 
fresher memories. The band lives only in memory. Your 
mother knows these bar-worn songs that have never seen 
radio play or been pressed to vinyl. She loved the man 
who crafted them and plied them roughly from stage to 
stage for twenty years across the Southwest. His callused 
brown hands held hers the night you were born. Tonight 
you drive to hear his voice, all gravel, and honey, and dust, 
for the last time. 

One hundred or so miles ago, you stopped for a rest 
and a drink on numb legs that seemed to stretch too far to 
reach the ground. Your shoes were laid upon as gray a 
slab of concrete as ever graced a tomb. You sat on its 
matching bench and laced your toes through the night- 
cooled grass. Silent and intent, a silver garter snake 
parted a line across the lawn, sending ripples toward your 
waiting feet. He disappeared beneath you, a flash of 
pewter skin and bright, dark eyes. Lapping at the dew, his 
darting tongue might have pulled your songs from the air 
as they resonated in a halo of tenderness and regret. The 
little snake attended you as you rose to drive again, framed 
by a corona of halogen light. 

Sleep is starting to seep into the corners of your 
eyes now, and the salt of your hands just makes them 
ache and beg to close. There is a pain that radiates from 
the joint of each thumb inward to the palm of each hand. 
Switching between them eases this for a moment or two. 
The highway is a river of obsidian now, running sharp and 
black with long streams grasping out at the heart of 




Ryan Reese - Untitled silver gelatin print 




Charles Estes - Untitled silver gelatin print 




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Bob Farr - "Stones" - silver gelatin print 
Lillian Spencer Award Winner 




Emily Adams - Untitled silver gelatin print 



Calliope 49 

America. The tributary that carries you soundlessly into 
morning leads you down among the sage and the golden 
pines of New Mexico. It's a long time coming, and the 
endless expanse of Texas has not yet been broached. Your 
glance flickers to the glove compartment. Avert your eyes! 
It's not time yet. A black dog lying dead in the median 
looks like a baby bear. Your father told you all about the 
bears the first time he left Pennsylvania and started mov- 
ing West. They are both the bane and the treasure of the 
residents in his small town. The story, which might have 
been true, was of a couple who were picnicking outside of 
the reservation near the anemic stream that gives the 
region its name. When the husband looked up from his 
lunch to see "the biggest damn bear on the mountain," he 
told his wife to run to the safety of the car, the windows of 
which had been left down to let the radio play. Hank 
Williams wailed away, tinny and unconcerned. He'd seen 
bears before. Abandoning picnic and mate, the woman ran 
towards the car, and of course, the second bear. The 
smaller bear was sitting in the passenger's seat eating 
cough drops and drinking warm beer. 

The effort on your father's face to remain stoic and 
sincere as he told you this story defied human strength, 
and even gravity. Laughter might just burst through the 
top of his head, but then you wouldn't know that the tale 
wasn't true. It's all in the delivery, you see. The art of 
telling makes the lie real and breathes bears into existence 
out of the only desire for an audience and to make you 
smile. 

The rain begins at dawn as you approach the city. 
She was your city once, and there is no need to take this 
route except to trace the silvering lines of an old scar. The 
exits slide by, and you turn unexpectedly at the last one. 
Slowing down is always the hardest part. Seventy and 
sixty feel much the same. Fifty drags uncomfortably, and 
at forty-five you must roll down the windows for some 
gauge of real speed. A windless southern night unfolds its 
sodden arms around you. You return briefly now to hear 
the echoes of lost time. 

It is said that every house has its ghost here, and 
they flicker in the windows as you pass. There is some- 
thing here, behind these cobblestones and bricks; behind 
these groves of electric light harvested in song. Here is the 
neighborhood where you stumbled through streets stained 
in sepia with lamplight at four in the morning. The shirt 



50 

you wore was not your own and you could smell the sweat 
of the black-haired man you stole it from. Your hands still 
tasted of him, and you did not care that this part of town 
bred murderers and thieves. It had rained that night as 
well, soaking you both as you walked to his house and 
stripped in a squalid bathroom that had seen the worst of 
too many parties. Candle wax and spent cigarettes littered 
the floor. You stepped around them to take his hand as he 
sat in the bath. The water went cold, then hot, then cold 
again. You talked for hours about frivolous things, drink- 
ing Wild Irish Rose and digging for common ground in your 
graveyards of childhood memory. He did love you in his 
distant way, as he did hate you later. 

You slow to a stop in front of the now condemned 
house and sniff the air. There is no trace left here of him, 
or the dark hours spent lying awake in the stifling heat, 
not daring to touch him as he lay next to you glowing bare 
in the window light. His power washed from these stones 
with the wine and sweat. You turn once and head back 
toward the highway. 

An hour behind now, and you speed without 
thought. The cool of night has burnt away. The breeze 
hangs almost motionless; your velocity gives it the illusion 
of a current, but it is thick and warm. Singing helps as 
you enter the special part of Georgia where radio stations 
are faint transmissions from dying stars, flitting in and out 
of range. The recognizable pieces of songs dance in static 
before you must turn them off before being lulled to sleep 
by gentle waves of white noise. Your father's songs again; 
you're trying not to think of the desiccated husk of what he 
once was. This keeps you awake. His slight frame once 
harbored a great strength. His eyes flashed razor-straight 
into yours, belying a keen intellect and fiery pride. Now 
the doctors draw lines in blue ink on his skin and run 
poison through his blood. When you saw him last, his 
huge brown eyes pleaded silently from a shrunken, fragile 
frame that belonged to a man twice his age. You could not 
help your observation. A baby bird; he looks just like a 
baby bird. You drive. 

The road is silent and slick with morning before the 
first stirrings of the working world begin. It is owned now 
only by truckers, who touch its secret corners and clamor 
amongst themselves through radio waves. You cannot 
hear their phantom voices, and there is no music now. 
You pull out a cigarette and greedily inhale, savoring the 



Calliope 51 

pull of smoke. You exhale in graceful, curling plumes. 
You throw out the butt and watch as it sparks behind you. 
The pack follows it. The lighter goes next. 

Your stomach, soured on coffee, folds into itself as 
the traffic builds. You stop to eat when the morning ebbs 
and the cars crowd either side of you. There is no answer 
when you call. The machine is not on. You call again as 
you eat. You call when you throw your spent wrappers in 
the trash. Pulling out of the truck stop, you know you will 
stop at every rest area and try to make contact. When you 
hear his voice, you will hang up. With terrible love you will 
attend to his last wishes. Promises fortified by blood are 
not easily broken. 

The sun tops out above the trees. There are 
college students at the next stop, laughing and snorting 
like great horses. You pick up the phone and let it ring for 
a long time. His wife answers. It is terse; he is gone. 
Without incident it seems, and sooner than was predicted. 
There was a flutter of the eyelids. He did not fight, of 
course. You leave the phone hanging as you pull away. 
Speeding back into the lanes, you acquire speed hungrily. 
Mile marker passes mile marker. Cars are not in front of 
you anymore. There is no one behind you as you open the 
glove compartment. The bullets scatter and the gun 
dances and rolls at over ninety-five miles per hour. He has 
loved you twice in the end: once by asking you to finish 
what he could not, and finally by releasing you from your 
duty. Unsure of what comes next, you turn around at the 
next exit. You drive. 



52 

nazi poets masquerading as gods 

to ee cummings 

Vicky Smith 



i will not use correct capitalization 



i will randomly sp ac e wo 

rds 



i will extol my poor grammar 
parading shamelessly across 

the page 

with 

no commas 

question 

marks 

colons periods semi colons 

on 

ill lump them in the middle of the page like this 

!!! 

ill eat mary Olivers handbook to poetry 
as i languish in an excess of adjectives 

rolling in my filthy mundane cliche poetics 

like a pig in shit 

and when i decide id rather be published 
than real 

ill drop knees open mouth and swallow 

for those nazi poets masquerading as gods 



Calliope 53 

This is War Boys 

Joseph Ventura 



The hot Persian sun beat down heavily on the 
shiny, metallic transporter: a Fokker- Atlantic C-2. The 
military insignia and voluptuous woman painted on its 
belly were eclipsed and simply reflected the white heat. 
Vapors of mirage-gas simmered up from the hot tarmac. 
Private Rev. John Von Imple is the first to exit down the 
stairs wheeled to a tight fit with the large cargo doors. His 
square crew cut and dark rimmed glasses frame a round, 
somewhat pudgy face that his parishioners back home 
synonymized with compassion. Before deployment the 
whole church was present at the airfield. Where as many of 
the soldiers, fifteen years his younger, had curvaceous 
blondes clinging and begging for them not to go, the rever- 
end, like on so many Sunday mornings before, was sur- 
rounded by some 1 50 older men and women with tears of 
joy in their eyes seeing him off. They carried signs that 
read: "Take Up Swords for the Lord!," "Onward Christian 
Soldier," and "Reverend Imple, Well Pray For You." They 
chanted "Defeat the Darkness!," "Overcome the Evil," and 
"God Bless America" as he waved his once bible toting 
hands to the crowd and boarded the aircraft. The reverend- 
come-sergeant saw them vividly in his mind as he stepped 
down the steel stairs; feeling their confidence in him duly, 
and righteously, warranted. 

The smells of burnt chemicals invaded Von Imple 's 
nostrils. As so often with memories, an immediate olfactory 
distaste that would always be with him imprinted itself 
upon his mind. Stepping down onto the white tar, gypsy 
sounds of a foreign, heathen society beat into his ears. The 
friendly airfield, which his outfit had landed at, was less 
than two kilometers from the heart of A_Ulaybiyah, Ku- 
wait. The bleating goats and horribly monotone pop music 
from a bustling, far from civilized, market could be heard 
from the barracks arranged along side the runway at 
Camp Doha. The stagnant vapors of helicopter fuel settled 
over the pale green tents like cumulus clouds over the 
cattle farms of Samson, Alabama. Private Rev. Von Imple 
clutched his bible close to his heart, heaved his bulging 
pack onto his back and hiked over to his super, Sgt. Braun 
T. Wallard. 



54 

The Sergeant sat at a sleek, four-legged, poker table 
under a dangling low-watt lamp. The forced neutrality of 
the varying shades of green, which made up the room, was 
an insult to the color. Green, a color much more comfort- 
ably a designator of environmentalists and green thumbs, 
at home blanketing the naive and gregarious, is pukish 
and pea-colored in this environment. Here, stamped on 
everything, dyed into scratchy wool blankets, the energy 
and purity of its pigments were purged by aggression; its 
essence lost in uniformity. 

Sergeant Wallard, a monster of a man from Dallas, 
Texas — the epitome of the slogan "Don't Mess With 
Texas" — sat over an Arabic-English dictionary. It was 
rumored by some of the men that in Field Training Sgt. 
Wallard 's outfit had been struck dead on by lightning. The 
men in his outfit were cooked alive. Wallard walked on 
third degree burns the 22 miles back to base, carrying the 
only survivor, scorched and ailing, over his shoulder. 

His arms were as large as good Betty Torring's 
roasts, thought the Reverend. For a moment he was trans- 
ported back home, back to dinner at the parish people's 
homes, back to Samson, Alabama, to a small white wooden 
church with only ten pews and standing room. For a 
moment John Von Imple was lost in the peaceful memories 
of the events that brought him here in this campaign 
against evil. That sermon was supposed to be merely a 
reiteration of the President's speech the week before — that 
was where it all began. He thought about the vivid descrip- 
tions of a weapon-bearing God striking with vengeance the 
wayward, un-godly ones, the comparisons of the Iraqi 
people with Jewish people under Hitler's reign of terror, 
the call, no, the demand to arms that had roused a fire in 
the heart of the church-goers, so much so that nearly 
twenty percent of them had enlisted the very next day — 
including himself, their leader, Reverend John Von Imple. 
However, Betty Torring had everything to do with his 
choice. Von Imple was surer of that than anything. 

Sgt. Wallard issued the company's bunking orders 
and left the barracks without so much as a welcome to the 
green G.I.'s filtering in. His heavy steps echoed throughout 
the near empty hall and in the heart of each boy's chest. A 
general wave of anxiety broke over each soldier's mind. 
Private Von Imple sat on his cot and began writing a letter 
to Betty, her flowery perfume the only concrete thing still 
in his head from back there. 



Calliope 55 

Dear Sister Betty, it began, I have left our home- 
lands and traveled to the battlefields for one purpose and 
one purpose alone: Love. Love of God, love of my parish, 
and love of my faith in Christ. I am determined to spread 
the teachings of Christ and rid the world of such awful 
diversions, veiled in a progression of compromise, as the 
Islamic teachings. Christian unity will not become a reality 
unless all churches accept the authority Christ entrusted 
to Saint Peter and his successors. With the backing of the 
U.S. military, God will reign supreme again. Unity in Christ 
is based on following His will and follow I shall. Betty, I 
want you to know that while J.C. is the only guide I need, 
the only light I see, the only food that nourishes me, you 
are my motivation in the flesh. The strength I gain from 
pleasing you will keep me a good man in the eyes of the 
Lord or set me apart from other men of the cloth. In Love 
of the Lord — Yours, Private Rev. John Von Imple. 

Later in the afternoon Sgt. Wallard lead Private Von 
Imple and a few others in his company as tourists into the 
large city of Al Jahar. With complete normalcy, chickens 
scrawled across the dirt roads, women masked from head 
to foot walked in drones with a total sense of direction, and 
the familiar red, white and blue Pepsi yin/yang tempted 
consumers in a foreign tongue. The inverted teardrop 
rooftops of mosques and public buildings sat next to the 
"Golden Arches" of home, the McWorld. The absolute 
grittiness of the street carried with it a stench of the famil- 
iar along with that of unfathomable filth. To Private Von 
Imple it seemed as though the market was set upon a 
dumpsite. 

"Good Lord! These God-forsaken people," he whis- 
pered to himself. 

"Hey Preach — Save ya holy water, we'll need a 
shower wit it after this tour," hollered Logan Seavor, a 
wild-eyed, lanky youth from Mississippi. 

Logan "lagoon," they called him. He was a drifter, 
hungry for adventure, hungry to be where the action was. 
Ever since the departure from Hunter Air Force 
Base, back in Savannah, Georgia, Private Von Imple had 
watched him from a distance. He saw in his rebellious tie- 
dyed t-shirts and untied shoes a lost soul, a lamb to be 
returned to the flock. He patiently waited for the opportu- 
nity God would give him to administer his lesson to Logan. 

Logan Lagoon was the hapless type of guy that did 
things his way and his way alone. He was the type of fellow 



56 

who still kept a tape deck in his car — CDs too delicate and 
ephemeral for his personality. The type of mentality the 
military both despised but needed desperately; one who'd 
kill simply for the pleasure of it and kill again without 
being commanded. The short fuse fanatic that fanatics 
were eliminated by. 

"Keep with ye, a pure heart and clear mind — psalm 
52 verse 4, Logan." 

"And plenty of .50 caliber, disintegrating, 
shortrecoil 'mmunitions, right Preach?" Logan said with a 
smirk. "Kill us some commie, towel heads! Fucking evil 
gooks." 

"Gooks are Asian, dumbass," shouted Robbie, a 
twenty-two year old military journalist. "...And the Iraqis 
ain't communist either." 

"Boys, keep your voices down. We are guests here. 
These people, the Kuwaitis, despite their lack of sanctity, 
have allowed us to enter their home and respect should be 
shown. 'From the east, great battles of my will shall be 
fought and blood, like water, shall purge the evil from its 
heart' Revelations 18:9. The Word shall give us victory 
over sin' Psalm 119:11. Be mindful of the duty at hand," 
Private Von Imple said as he moved his M-16 to his oppo- 
site shoulder and continued ahead of the other five men 
back towards the barracks. 

"Walking bible," the other men joshed among each 
other. 

The open flames of street fires dried large mammals 
of unknown specification in the slow grind of aberrant 
chefs turning pit-handles. The foreign chatter that sur- 
rounded the American soldiers further emphasized the 
strangeness of the landscape around them. Uncouth 
soldiers broke out into Chinese imitations. Old rusted cars, 
like gravestones, sat abandoned on every corner. The 
puttering motor of one pick-up revealed life of some kind, a 
sputtering of dust kicked into the air by bald tires. Three 
men in green fatigues crouched; huddled in the back of the 
vintage El Camino. A loud 'pop' like the snap of a snare 
drum echoed through the dirty streets. As if in a rush of 
gunfire, the men of Sgt. Wallard's company dove behind 
large wooden crates for cover. 

A white fear shrouded all six men instantly. The 
bustling of the street seemed to eerily dissipate. Von Imple 
and Robbie were crouched behind two large wooden crates 
that partitioned a small rampart off from the rest of the 



Calliope 57 

street. Von Imple clutched his crucifix and softly recited a 
prayer to Archangel Michael, the protector. 

"Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, Oh shit. Not today — I just 
got here. I'm a gawddam writer not a fighter," chanted 
Robbie. 

"Be calm Robbie and just stay quiet. It's probably 
just some kids with cap guns or one of those decrepit 
German vehicles backfiring," said Von Imple. "Logan! 
Logan? Where the hell are you?" 

Slowly peeking above the wooden crate, Von Imple 
got a view of Logan. The air filled with his hysterical chor- 
tling. Clutched in his thin fingers was a chicken's rubbery 
neck drooping limply like a wilted flower. A rivulet of blood 
dripped from the fowl's fractured skull. An image of Betty 
floated up to Private Rev. Von Imple 's consciousness. Her 
soft white features, like an angel's, hazy and round, as if 
seen through a camera filter, overwhelms him. Her blue 
eyes smiled at Von Imple. A tear raced down from the 
Reverend's face. 

"Hey preach, ya wanna give the last rites?" asked 
Logan. 

A spark ignited inside of the Reverend. A fire, as if 
on the pulpit conjuring up descriptions of the wrath of 
God's return, was set ablaze inside of him. The sterling 
cross, whose weight was a delicate ounce, burns into his 
chest. The whites of his eyes are flooded red as he jumps 
up from his position. 

"You Heathens!!" yelled Von Imple as he raced out, 
lividly, into the open air of the empty market. The almond 
trees drop their fruit in syncopation with the charging 
stomps of his army boots. As he held his weapon from the 
waist he began to contemplate it unloading itself upon the 
guilty, the damned, the merciless. He imagined the shells 
from his weapon falling into the dirt like rain. He saw, with 
each empty casing dropping to the ground, part of the fiery 
with which his rage erupted extinguish itself. Just feet 
from Logan he fell to his knees and sobbed into his fore- 
arm. 

Sgt. Wallard stood with the sore look of a parent's 
bereavement across his face. He reached out, grabbed 
Logan by the arm, and tossed him to the dusty street. 

"You fool." Came the Sergeant's commanding voice. 
"Come on, you morons. In here." The Sergeant motioned 
the men into a small deli. 

A large plywood sign hung over the doorway that 



58 

read: "Al Salaam" in Arabic. Underneath, in English, read 
"U.S. Military Welcome". There weren't many of these 
signs hanging around what was left of the city. The men 
dusted themselves off as they walked into the small build- 
ing. 

Every brown eye turned to them as the door swung 
shut behind them. A short bar separated the small wooden 
tables and the kitchen area. A short man with a large gold 
medallion visible through his open shirt watched the G.I.'s. 
No one spoke. 

The walls were lined with a collection of religious 
and food service posters. Faux-gold framed pictures of 
Jesus and Muhammad hung next to grotesque close-ups of 
falafels, gyros, and hummus bread. On one wall hung a 
photo of Mecca. In it thousands of devout Muslims circled 
the holy pillar and were blurred by the timed exposure of 
the photographer. 

The four men lumbered up to the bar and sat with 
their elbows on the counter. Next to them sat a small 
Kuwaiti man with his wife and daughter. The man wore 
dust infused jeans and Nike tennis shoes, with an open 
buttoned short sleeve business shirt. His wife, from head 
to foot, was immersed in a black burqa. Logan, Robbie, 
and John weren't paying any attention to the parents, 
however. Their eyes rested loving — maybe even lustily — 
upon the couple's teenage daughter, Salome. 

She sat immaculately underneath the rows of 
jarred grape leaves, pickled cucumbers, and spicy Baba 
Ganoush. Her plum colored eyes patiently observed the 
servicemen. Her skin had a soft glow like the golden Tuni- 
sian dates that sat packaged on a shelf behind her. The 
men were enamoured. 

Her father broke their concentration. "You are U.S. 
military, eh." Said the simple old man, imploringly. "We 
have respect and trust to give you." 

Logan began to speak but Sgt. Wallard interrupted. 
"Thank you very much. We are happy to be here." 

The room shook. A military plane passed above. 

"You are hero." He turned to the man behind the 
counter, "Wilum, pour drinks for my hero friends." The 
grin on his face could have stretched the length of the 
entire Syrian Desert. His wife sat distantly. His daughter's 
face flushed as he continued, "We are with you in your 
fight against evil. The Seed of evildoers shall never be 
renowned." 



Calliope 59 

Rev. Von Imple's ears perked up. What was this? A 
man of God in this barren place? "Good sir, it joys my ears 
to hear the prophet's holy words from your mouth. I was 
certain I would not find a Christian man among the lot. 
And to think, here of all places. Praise be." 

The man's composure slumped into the wooden 
chair. Salome leaned over her mother and father and 
looked into Rev. Von Imple's eyes. "Isaiah is a prophet of 
Islam." She said and then relaxed back into the contempla- 
tive position she held before. 

"You sass that preach, girl." Said Logan as he 
licked his lips. "Ain't no god-fearin' in her. Where's your 
costume, sweet thing?" 

"She's obviously not a Muslim, Logan." Answered 
the Reverend. 

Salome turned slowly and peered at the Reverend's 
eyes. Her beauty enthralled him. Slowly her dark features 
spread out for him in hallucinatory waves like the gas off 
the hot tarmac. He glared adoringly into her royal eyes. 
Her features rounded and smoothed out ethereally and 
Private Rev. John Von Imple sat before his love, Betty 
Torring. 

"Betty" He whispered. 

Immediately the young woman spoke. "I refuse the 
burqa, but not my sweet lord, Allah. The Qu'ran does not 
say that women must cover themselves completely in 
public. That is the law of oppressive regimes. He that ruled 
nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. You fail 
yourself with such a narrow view of prophets." She pointed 
to the picture of Jesus that hung next to Mohammed's on 
the wall. "You fight for yourselves and your own views of 
the world. You refuse Islam, just as Islam refuses you. 
Your fear is a fear of truth." 

"Salome!" Shouted her father. But, it was too late. 
The young girl sprang from her chair and was quickly out 
the door. 

The Reverend, Logan, and Robbie were all on their 
feet. The girl's father reached out and grabbed Rev. Von 
Imple. "She knows no place for woman" He pleaded with 
the Reverend whose eyes followed the closing glass door. 

He walked towards the door. 

"Sit your holy ass down, Von Imple" Shouted Sgt. 
Wallard. 

But, the Reverend continued. In a trance he fol- 
lowed towards the door. Just then, Wilum, ran from be- 



60 

hind the counter and grabbed the Reverend from behind. 
Logan, Robbie, and Gen. Wallard immediately surrounded 
him. 

"You let go of that soldier, chief. Now!" Shouted one 
of the men. 

In the spontaneity of birds taking flight, a hustled 
scrum of men erupted in the quiet deli. Fists flailed. Anger 
was mouthed in Arabic and retorted in English. Wilum was 
out numbered and quickly manhandled into a corner. The 
Reverend escaped out the door. 

Salome stood in the middle of the dusty street. Her 
face radiated a light out over the glum of late afternoon. A 
light sprinkle of rain fell ubiquitously over everything. A 
single drop screamed like a miniature MOAB bomb down 
from the heavens. It careened through denseless clouds. 
Private Rev. John Von Imple stood captivated underneath 
the deli sign and the Kuwaiti and American flags that flew 
above. They unfurled above him. The tiny droplet of rain — 
a death shower? — continued to fall. It grazed the out- 
stretched flag mixing with the rusty dust that covered 
everything. The alchemy of this momentary mixture trans- 
formed the droplet of life-restoring water into something 
sinister, something grotesque. The droplet splashed onto 
the Reverend's boots like blood. 

"Betty." He murmured. 
Tears splash into the great reservoir of sand. A 
prophet stood over a dead man. 

The sun cast down Von Imple 's shadow, out over the sand 
like a clock's hand. 

"This is war, boys" said Salome, as she turned 
coolly and simply walked away. 



Calliope 61 

Fatherless Seed 

Due Van Huynh 



fatherless seed grew upon a fire 

and coldness swept by with a breeze of wind. 

living without desire 

a child not knowing of any sin. 

coming into a world of unknown 

with a people of multiple clothes. 

taught of earth, sky, and me 

and learn that home was a shack 

and was born of a fatherless seed. 



Helpless 

Due Van Huynh 



Seven days breathing nothing 

But the smells of rotten flesh and dirt. 

Ferocious little beasts crawling 

In my eye sockets and under my shirt. 

Above, a flower that sheds tears 

Dampening my heart. 

Helpless to move away from here 

And even helpless to say, 

"I miss you." 



62 
Clouds 

Sean Kymalainen 



To be floating along, 

in a majestic blue sky. 

To take shapes by the millions, 

to wonder why. 

No cares in the world, 
nothing to make. 
No obligations to meet, 
no promises to shake. 

To feel such a bliss, 
like a soft, feathered touch. 
To be so near heaven, 
is almost too much. 

To glide in the air, 
so light and so free. 
Ah, to be a cloud, 
that is for me. 



Calliope 63 

Everyday but Sunday 

Emily Adams 



The devil comes to my house everyday but Sunday 

And delivers demons made of paper 

To a box outside my door 

Then he drives a city vehicle to my neighbor 

At least we all get the same treatment 

So with a sigh, I take his bringing into my home 

Where I place them on my counter 

And shuffle through them with a moan 

Occasionally he brings some less frightening than demons 
Like goblins, imps, and the random boogie man 
I pinch them at their corners 
And throw them in the can 

The demons have my name on them 
I feed each one with money 
I stuff each of their mouths with my sweat 
Each demon must be fed monthly 
(or they come after me) 

In the morning, I deposit them back into the box 
Where they wait to be picked up today 
Their faithful father is never late 
Everyday but Sunday 



64 
Soiled 

Sasha McBrayer 

The used fork sits perfectly balanced 

The white handle is clean as a hospital 

But not the sharp, shaped metal 

Tongs are coated in my last meal 

Still tainting the air with lo mein scent 

My tongue remembering the soy 

I worry for the used fork 

Soon it will be sticky, like the plastic it rests upon 

Who will wash it if not I? 



I Want Your Eyes 

Sasha McBrayer 

I venture deep, the only one willing to uncover what lies 
within myself 
What do I want? 
I want your eyes 
Humble, peaceful blue 
Solitary and sharp 
Decadent but so very simple 
Give me your eyes 
Just for a few glances at night 
Just enough to send me to sleep 

To give me those sweet, safe dreams of warmth and free- 
dom 

Would that solve me? 

Would I be happy then? 

Maybe not. 

Maybe ... lend me also your voice 

Say random meaningless things to me 

Say them just so 

111 be content then 

111 be soothed in pretend land 

111 sleep soundly, I swear 

For what would I know to do with all of you? 
The complete you would be too fine a gift 



Calliope 65 

A thing I could not fathom or handle 
So keep to yourself precious son 
And only lend me these gems 
I swear 
111 never hunt you again. 



66 

The Essence of Man 

Karen Bellflower 



O Wretched soul, endure not thy immortal fate, 

But do cast aside thine armor that shields thy virginal 

state. 

Reject the holy covenant of heavenly bliss 

And embrace earth's passionate kiss. 



O, spread wide thy frail pure wings 

In search of mortal transcendental pleasures. 

Do entrust thine saintly heart and let thine soul 

Submit gladly in worldly flight. 

Soar beyond the splendid golden gate 

To plummet downward into chosen conscious grace. 



O, tread ye not where Angles dare 

For in this gilded garden lies Cupid's lair. 

Awaken thine eyes to see this terrestrial Eden 

And surrender whole heartedly to the son of Venus. 

Now castaway thy Utopian crown 

And sow thy seeds in this fertile mortal ground. 



O, Bare thy soft Angelic breast to the fervent beast 

And tame not thy savage heart conceived by sinful lust 

But do savor the decadent fruit 

That was spawn from a handful of dust, 

For it is "The Essence of Man." 



Calliope 67 

The Jazz Club 

Ilene Cardenas 



Enter, enter 
into smoke-filled rooms 
the soft sounds of pianos 
and bases offsetting the 
dimness of the room 

Languid hands move over the surface of 
smooth black and white keys that 
obey their every touch 
the perfect tempo 
of sweet improvisation 
filling my soul 
music induced sweat 
filling my every pore 
finishing all too soon 
the applause fills every corner 
2nd set 



68 




Calliope 69 

To My Mother 

Alexxus Anderson 

Preconceptions cage in plastic 

a hamster's house with no holes 

where I suffocate for want of self-expression. 

YOU forced ME 

a triangular peg into a square hole 

cutting off the corners that made me different, 

unique, 

un-you. 

I've walked in your shoes, 

your stockings, 

your dress, 

and you wonder why I scream 

MURDER 

when I can't please you. 

You straightened my hair, 

and I suffered with the do, 

for you. 

Shut my mouth with respect's muzzle, 

seeded my mind with self-hate, 

pressed the pattern of pain into my skin, 

leopard spots you ordered me not to scratch out. 

All these things you've done to me, 

Mother 

and you wonder why I scream 

MURDER 

when I can't please you. 



To My Father 

Alexxus Anderson 

You are half my reason for being, 

half my intellect, 

so don't look so surprised that I'm a fucking wreck. 

Momma ain't no saint, 

but then neither are you, 

so how you can expect me to be 

is beyond the fucking moon. 

you walked away and left me, 

a woman to be sure, 

but for the self-hate you've given me 



70 

there'll never be a cure. 

Before you think this is all your fault 

I just want you to know 

you share the blame completely for this fiasco. 

Cause you are only half 

and to be whole one must have two. 

So before you go, 

KNOW 

I hate my mother too. 



Calliope 71 

When Girls Cry 

Anthony Petrevitch 



you wear a plastic halo 

it's the thought that counts 

watching over me like an omnipresent lover 

waiting to comfort should i cry out 

forever afraid to slumber 

for the fear that i might fall down 

you are the angel in my heart 

the demon in my head 

a crutch i cannot bear 

like a monument to the dead 

something cut away 

like the skin i shed 

you hold me like a dream 

for you have yet to taste 

what will i do 

when tears stream down your face 

i will laugh 

and you will fade 

a long lost memory 

a testament to the time i wouldn't waste 



72 

Messenger of Death 

Samuel D. Helms 



During the 20th century, America fought in two 
world wars, two police actions, and several conflicts. For 
the families of those who serve in the US Armed Forces, 
the words " We regret to inform you...''' are among the most 
feared. From February 1993 throughout June 1996, these 
words became part of who I was and who I am. During the 
final three years of my Marine Corps career, I was assigned 
as the Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) for the 
southeast corner of Texas; a region measuring 8,000 
square miles. My bible was the US Marine Corps Casualty 
Manual. This manual covers everything from how I would 
receive the detailed information of the deceased, to walking 
the endless sidewalk to utter the words " We regret to inform 
you..." to hearing taps echoing in the background as I 
handed the folded flag to the grieving widow or parents. 

My first assignment came only two weeks after 
arriving in Houston. The call came on a Thursday night at 
10:00 p.m. My heart raced as I drove to the Reserve 
Center to pick up the message regarding the first casualty 
call. Pulling the message from the fax machine, I began to 
read the details surrounding the death of this Marine. As I 
read his name and unit, my stomach suddenly became 
empty and hollow. I knew this Marine; he was from the 
unit I had just left two weeks before. I arrived at midnight 
in a small Texas town and tried to find the rural route 
address. I contacted the Sheriffs office to get the exact 
location of the house. I knocked on the door, but no one 
was home. I called the house several times, but no one 
answered. The ride back to Houston seemed like an 
eternity. My mind kept going over and over the facts, 
wondering whether I could find the words to tell this 
mother that her 20-year-old son had committed suicide. 

The next day I returned to that home in that small 
Texas town around 9:00 a.m. As I walked the sidewalk to 
the door, the sidewalk seemed to be never ending and the 
door seemed just out of reach. I could even hear myself 
breathe. What felt like hours to walk took only seconds. 
Before I could knock, the door opened, and the terror in 
that mother's eyes became etched into my memory forever. 



Calliope 73 

Those words " We regret to inform you..." came so hard for 
me. I felt this mother's pain. I felt her anguish as it filled 
the room. I became the rock this mother chose to cling to. 

As with most Marines, the world will not find 
weakness in our armor. For the next three years the 
casualty calls and subsequent funerals were conducted 
without a show of emotion, and with only a sense of duty. 

During my final months as CACO, the last casualty 
call of my career made me aware of the impact and respon- 
sibility that had been given to me. Late one Wednesday 
night, the call came for a Marine who had died during a 
training accident at Twenty-nine Palms, California. He was 
a 33 year old Staff Sergeant with a wife and two children 
living in east Houston. It was midnight when I knocked on 
the door. The words " We regret to inform you..." cut the 
night air and his wife, now a widow, slumped to the floor. 
A few minutes later her 10-year-old son came out. At first 
he just looked at us, then asked us where his daddy was. 
I looked on the wall and saw a picture of a proud Marine in 
full dress blues posing with his boy; his son. As the child 
sat in my lap, I did my best to explain that his daddy 
would be home no more. 

The deceased Marine had stipulated that, should 
anything happen to him and a casualty call were to be 
made, we were to inform his wife first, and then his 
mother, and finally, his father. At 5:30 a.m. I drove 80 
miles to relay the news of this Marine's untimely death to 
his mother. As I walked up the driveway, the mother 
walked out to empty her garbage. As our eyes met, she 
screamed and fainted. My presence alone was enough to 
convey the sentiment my job called me to do. For the next 
hour, as I tried to comfort this mother in her time of loss, 
all she could say was, "My baby boy is dead." Upon leav- 
ing this mother with her grief, I drove 100 miles north to 
utter these words, yet again, to the father of this dead 
Marine. When I pulled into the drive, I could see the father 
working in the backyard. His wife stepped on the porch, 
and seeing me, walked rapidly to her husband. I made it 
to him before her. While he walked back toward the 
house, he began to weep softly. During the long, silent 
drive back to Houston, I knew the next two months were to 
be the hardest one for me emotionally. 

When the body arrived the following Saturday at 
Houston's Intercontinental Airport, it was my duty to see 
that the family was there to accept the remains, and my 



74 

duty to relieve the Marine who had accompanied his friend 
home. The funeral director and I inspected the casket and 
ensured all of the documents were in order for the burial. 
Since the death resulted from an explosion, the casket was 
sealed. The ride back to the funeral home from the airport 
was quiet and subdued. Once the casket was arranged in 
the viewing parlor, the mother was adamant about seeing 
her son. As the family members tried to talk her out of it, 
she looked at me and begged me to provide her with a 
goodbye to her son. For a moment, I imagined my own 
mother asking someone like me for the same thing. Before 
we, the funeral director and I, would let the mother see her 
son, we had to be sure the body was presentable. Present- 
able meant the body was shrouded in a green wool blanket 
with the Marine's dress blues arranged on top. Once this 
was verified, the funeral director and I agreed to let the 
mother take one last look at her son. What felt like hours 
took only minutes as grief enveloped his mother. I, again, 
became the rock that a mother could rest upon and draw 
strength, except this time I was the foundation this mother 
pulled herself on. I still wonder if she pictured me as her 
son at that moment she said her final goodbye. 

The day of the funeral was planned for and prac- 
ticed by the other twelve Marines needed for full military 
honors. The rotunda of Houston's National Cemetery 
would be full. All family members and 20 Marines from 
the departed's unit would be attending the service. The 
hearse stopped on cue. With the skill of surgeons we, the 
casualty corps, set about our task, to give honor to a fallen 
comrade. I told my team that morning, "We don't know 
this Marine, but we are a band of brothers and, by God, we 
are going to bury him as if he were our brother." This 
funeral had become personal. 

The afternoon sun was starting to cast long shad- 
ows as we slowly entered the rotunda. The Navy chaplain 
began the service and for the next hour we listened to 
songs and praise from the family and friends of the de- 
parted. As the sergeant and I stepped to the casket, the 
silence was deafening. It was so quiet that I could hear the 
flag whisper across the casket as we raised it high above 
our heads. When the first volley of the 21 -gun salute 
sounded, the rotunda filled with sobs. The echoing of the 
final volley seemed to continue infinitely as Taps began. 
As the trumpeter help each note just a little longer than 
usual, the eyes of many combat-hardened Marines filled 



Calliope 75 

with tears. Time seemed to stand still as we folded the 
flag. Painfully, with each fold, with each turn of the flag, 
the truth about this day unfolded. I was in this place, 
given this duty to not only honor the dead, but to give the 
living peace of mind, rest without worry, and a rock on 
which to find strength. 

As the sergeant and I painstakingly folded and 
inspected this Marine's flag, we exchanged salutes that our 
task was completed. I turned directly towards the grieving 
widow. Today I counted my steps; the thirteen steps 
necessary to stand before her were never-ending. She had 
not shed a tear since hearing of the death of her chosen 
life partner. As I bent down with the Marine's burial flag, 
she and I looked at one another and began to cry. As I 
began "On behalf of a grateful nation..." Marines sitting 
behind her began to audibly weep. As I presented the flag, 
I watched my own tears fall on the ultimate symbol of our 
nation's strength. I felt the humility and compassion I had 
lost during the last three years return. 

What prompted the death of my humility and 
compassion was the very same thing that prompted its 
return, the death of a Marine; the death of an unfamiliar, 
but not an unknown brother. As I gave my final salute as 
Houston's "Messenger of Death," I wondered if the next 
messenger would have the sinews of rock I had. 



"The writer believes that all that can be thought can be 
written. In his eyes man is the faculty of reporting, and the 
universe is the possibility of being reported. " 

-Emerson 






thousand five 



Calliope 
2005 



Armstrong Atlantic State University 
Volume XXI 



Staff 



Managing Editor 

Brandi Kincaid 

Staff 

Kari Hunter 
Christi Healen 
Jennifer West 

Faculty Advisor 

Dr. Christopher Baker 

Calliope is published annually by and for the 
students of Armstrong Atlantic State University. 
The Student Government Association of AASU 
provides funding for each publication. The 
Lillian Spencer Awards are chosen by the editors 
in each area of art, literature, and poetry, and 
are given out to outstanding talent in each year's 
collection. 

Submissions are collected throughout the 
fall semester for the following year's publication. 
Submissions should be placed in one of the drop 
boxes located around campus or emailed to the 
staff. All submissions are read and chosen 
through an anonymous process to ensure an 
equal opportunity for every student. For more 
information on submissions, or if you are inter- 
ested in working on the staff of the 2006 edition, 
please contact Dr. Christopher Baker in the 
Department of Language, Literature, and 
Philosophy located in Gamble Hall. 



All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really 
happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all 
that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and 
the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places 
and how the weather was. 

—Ernest Hemingway 



Letter From the Editor 



This year's edition of Calliope marks the first 
year that creative non-fiction was introduced into 
the submission process. We found as a staff as 
we read through the submissions that it was 
often extremely difficult to distinguish the fiction 
from non-fiction in the stories. Unmarked and 
anonymous, each story was presented in the 
same manner, giving the reader very little clue as 
to which genre the piece belonged. What we 
discovered in our reading was that there was a 
little bit of truth and a little bit of fiction in each 
work. It is difficult to define where the imaginary 
begins and where reality ends, and vice versa. 
After a great deal of discussion amongst our- 
selves, we decided to present this year's work 
similar to the last, without designating an area 
for each genre: fiction, poetry, creative non- 
fiction, photography, and art. We encourage you 
to read, view, and experience all of the works in 
this edition of Calliope as art, all representing a 
little bit, not only of the life we live, but also of 
the life we envision. 



Contents 



Adams, Matthew 

Horton 25 

Ode to the Wells 35 
Bailey, David 

I Sing a Song of Change 108 
Christian, Erin 

I Am 89 

Insomnia 95 
Daiss, Kevin 

I'm in Love 64 

I Can Give You 65 
Droste, Clinton J. 

Disconnecting Houston 91 
Dunn, Chris 

Foundation 117 
Ebner, Lindsey 

Plastic Mommies 14 
Ferrell, Alicia 

Fear and Loathing 58 
Flynn, Autumn 

Lunch Break 37 
Foote, Katherine 

Visitor 34 
Harrell, Karen 

Snake Oil 73 

Safety and Comfort Guide 99 
Hayle, Sophie 

I Do 94 
Healen, Christie 

Omission 13 

Operation Let's Ride 26 
Kincaid, Brandi 



Paper Dolls 66 
Martinez, Jessica 

For My Father 2 1 

It's My Body 116 
McDaniel, Judy 

Fat Boy 74 
Moore, Valerie 

Until 98 
Orsini, Carmela 

Breathe 90 

Irrational 106 
Redden, Tyeshia 

Rebellious Child 104 
Redding, Melissa 

I Can Smile 53 
Sanchez, Ditrie 

Death of the Piano 22 

Ocean 107 
Walker, Katherine 

Puddles 96 
Wanes, Hilary 

You 114 

Photos printed on glossy insert are in order as 
follows: 

Santa-Rita, Julian 

Spirit 
Stark, Colin 

Hideaway 
Treanor, Victoria 

Dock 
Stern, Megan 

Firey Night 
Hubbard, Jamie 

Freedom 
Herzog, Becky 






Blue Read 
Kidane, Amy 

Within Me 
Herzog, Becky 

Van Gogh's Marsh 
Stern, Megan 

Spring 
Leidersdorf, Bil 

Untitled 
Durden, Jennifer Turpin 

Attention 

Roll Call 



This issue of Calliope is presented in memory of 
Dr. Jill Miller. An amazing scholar, teacher, and 
friend, she will be greatly missed, but her pres- 
ence will continue to live on through the lives 
and work of her students. Her faith in us has 
changed us. 



Calliope 13 



Omission 

Christi Healan 



This hunger eats at me, 
a web of deceit I created. 
Unintentionally. 

Fear shrouds my tongue. 

I swallow the words before they. 

Escape. 

Eventually, lies will consume 
the truth with deception. 
Unplanned. 

A wall of silence hinders 
and protects, but offers no 
Redemption. 



14 

Plastic Mommies 

Lindsey Ebner 

He is the only person that laughs at my 
inappropriately timed jokes. He understands humor. 
Being a flaming homosexual at 16 will do that to a person, 
I suppose. He called last week at his usual time from New 
Orleans, which means the party went bitter and he needs 
my tasteless humor. 

"How's the mega-bitch?" 

I sighed and rolled my eyes, "Oh, Jason, darling, 
which one?" 

"Which one do we hate the most? Mommy number 
one or mommy number, huh, what number are we on 
again? Oh yes, four." 

"Jason, dear, it isn't ladylike to hate." 

"Mommy Number Four, it is then." 

His voice was raspy from hours of drinks and 
Marlboros. Mommy Number Four. I think I could have my 
own line of dolls. Each of the four dolls would have their 
own weapon of choice, hairstyles to match the decade, and 
of course their smiles would be stretched across their 
plastic faces with no wrinkles in the corners of their eyes. 
We simply cannot have sincere smiling dolls. That just 
won't do. I would have to name the legion of mommies, 
but no name seems to work for them, because they are all 
so different. I could name them after my dad, "Zachy's 
Wives" or maybe "Apron Killers," or I could even honor 
Jason and call them "The Flab Four." Nope. None of these 
names will do. 

The first doll out of the doll factory was Mommy 
Number One, the main one, the one that tried to shove me 
through the birth canal. Poor number one, she couldn't 
even give birth right, or so I was told. She had to be sliced 
under the belly button to free me. She tells me often that 
she loves me more than my older sister because I look like 
her, and because for the first three years of my life I 
needed her. I was deaf. She taught me how to speak with 
my fingers on her lips and my hand making pictures in 
hers. The years she taught me how to speak were the only 
years she touched me without anger. I visited her every 
summer and Christmas until I was fourteen. That was the 
age the courts in Georgia decided I had a choice of whether 
or not I wanted to be beaten with her whip of humiliation 



Calliope 1 5 

and manipulation. She called to say Happy Fourteenth 
Birthday. She called to remind me of my debt. 

"Lindsey, I was in labor for three days. It was 
agonizing. They told me I might die if I gave birth to you, 
but I told them to go fuck themselves! I was having you if 
it killed me, and it almost did. Are you coming to see me 
this summer?" 

"Shit, mom, you shouldn't have gone to the trouble. 
I mean you could of died and they would have cut me out 
anyways. Right?" 

She showed me her belly scar when I was eight; 
"This is where the doctors slit my skin so you could come 
out. You gave me this ugly scar, and now I can't even wear 
a bikini." Her eyes mimicked her puckered lips as she 
pulled at the extra skin around her scar. I looked at her 
face with plain eyes, her eyes, and allowed the corner of 
my mouth to move upward. "Well, I suppose you should 
have just left me in there." She looked at me as though I 
had just proposed she buy me a snake. 

Snakes. Oh how Mommy Number Two, the second 
installment in my doll collection, hated snakes. I am sure 
I reminded her of a snake and not just because at four 
years old I thought a garter snake made a great gift. She 
looked at me like I slithered all around her ankles daring 
her to touch my scales. Her first husband gave her three 
boys and I liked to pretend that I was the little girl she 
dreamed of. She loved taking long bubble baths, but I 
thought it strange that she would never let me take one 
with her. One summer while she was bathing away, 
probably dreaming of me starting kindergarten in the fall, I 
slithered in and showed her what I had found while 
playing. A dead bat. Her reaction was shocking. She hit 
my arm and screamed at me to "get the hell out." I did the 
only thing I could. I dropped the dead bat in her bath and 
ran to find my dad before she did. She morphed into the 
dragon from Sleeping Beauty before my eyes. "Run!" I 
screamed to my legs. I ran through the long hallway onto 
the screen porch and through the limp door, only stopping 
when I ran into my dad's legs. My nose still bends to the 
right from its impact with his hard knees, or so I think. 

Later that night my dad ruffled the top of my head 
with his calloused hand as he laughed and soothed my 
tears. We ate our Oreos and milk together. I choked on 
tears and he choked on concealed laughter. I think he 
laughed the whole night on our couch that was missing 



16 



half its cushions. 

One month after the dead bat incident I had a big 
shiny box waiting for me on my bed. I ripped the paper 
with my teeth and tore with my claws. I thought of 
treasures, games, Teddy Ruxpin, He-man action figures, 
Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, Thundercats, 
Transformers... I was going to explode if I didn't get the box 
open! God, why do adults put so much darn tape on 
presents for kids? I tore the box lid in half getting to my 
prize. Horror. A red denim skirt. A skirt. I knew it was 
for me, because the name started with an L, but I hadn't 
learned anymore of my name. My dad slipped on the 
hardwood floor running to my screams of terror. Mommy 
Number Two bought me my first skirt. Poor thing. I feel 
bad now for the way I reacted with such selfish pain at the 
thought of wearing a skirt. I wonder if she still remembers 
that moment... wherever she is. 



"Linds?" Jason's voice slashed into my psyche. 

"Huh?" 

"Really, how is she?" 

"Well, I haven't stuffed her in the kiln at my art 
class if that's what you're asking." God, I love the sound of 
his gut twisting laughter. I didn't get that one though. I 
got the kind of laughter you give the crazy lady behind you 
at the grocery store. The particular brand of crazy that 
wears a rain coat and boots in ninety degree weather and 
tells jokes about drowning puppies, that's the type of 
laughter that met my ear. 

"Have you talked to her since the fabulous wedding 
fight?" 

"Oh, you mean the fight where my Maid of Honor 
got confused about her title in the wedding, and thought 
she was actually supposed to defend my honor? No. 
Number Four is still sour about the black eye. I am 
waiting for the yellowish red color to seep in before I brave 
the visit. By then, she can cover it with makeup, and I can 
pretend I don't see it." Ah, there it is, that gut twisting 
laugh. Love him. 

"Shit Linds, I wish I could have been there for that 
one!" 

"Oh yah, that's all I needed at the 
wedding... another queen." 



Black eyes. Mommy Number Three, my third doll, 



Calliope 1 7 

left when I was twelve because of a black eye. Not because 
of the ones she gave me, but the because of the one I gave 
her when I got big enough to hand them out too. Mommy 
Number Three gave me my first spanking. It was with an 
antique metal flyswatter. I had to pull down my shorts 
and panties to receive my spanking. After four hard licks, 
the fragile swatter broke, infuriating her into action. 
Luckily, because it was the first time I was ever hit, I 
screamed so loud that she felt bad, my dad ran in, and I 
was saved. That night my dad and I ate Oreos and milk. 
We both choked through tears as he explained why I was 
spanked. I deserved it. I was riding my bike on the center 
line of the highway that stretched in front of our house. I 
heard Mommy Number Three yelling at my dad that night: 
"That monster's spirit needs to be broken. She is fearless. 
She ought to be scared of things. Damn it, Zack, she 
wasn't just riding on the center line with her bike. She 
had her arms stretched out and her eyes closed!" 

Monster. I thought of the book I was learning to 
read, Where the Wild Things Are. I squeezed my eyes 
tighter and entered Max's world. I hung Mommy Number 
Three upside down from the trees and let the monsters 
tickle her toes. I danced in my own fox costume under the 
full moon with my monster friends, I dove into the water 
and turned into a mermaid, and then I walked out of the 
magical water and became a lizard. With my suction cup 
feet I was able to climb and sneak up on the meanest 
monster, Mommy Number Three. I laughed when the 
biggest monster started spanking her with a large black fly 
the size of a football. "AAAARRRGGGHHHH" I screamed 
and started to climb the trees, which of course were my 
curtains. I was just about to pounce on her with my lizard 
suction cups when my bedroom light was thrown on and 
glowing anger meet my wide eyes. 

It took her years to break down my spirit. Many 
secret beatings had to occur, but finally I had to be put on 
anxiety medication. Way to go Doc, fill me up with 
narcotics. That won't have an affect on me later. My 
neurologist explained the dizzy spells and spots to me 
years later as being from the idiot doctor that calmed my 
nerves with drugs. The idiot doctor said I was the youngest 
patient he ever knew of to have such attacks, at the gentle 
age of ten and eleven years old. My stomach was torn with 
ulcers, I threw up constantly, I couldn't poop, and I 
stopped speaking freely. Only when spoken to by God. My 



18 



dad thought it was only from Mommy Number One's 
manipulation, he didn't know Mommy Number Three's 
secret. My dad would sit at my bed at night petting my 
curls and telling me stories. He dragged me to therapists 
and specialists and speech therapists, but I was tired. I 
wanted only him. 

After Mommy Number Three was forced out, I had 
freedom from mothers for about four years. I liked the 
young funky girlfriends he brought home for a short time. 
There was a thirty something with red, yellow, and orange 
hair. We listened to the same music. There was one of my 
teachers. Thank God for that! I would have failed history 
that year without their fling. Then there was a scuba 
diver, and she was the best because she was one of those 
women that loved the earth and all of God's creatures. She 
reminded my dad what pot was, and I learned too. 

Mommy Number Four came when I was sixteen 
with the mission of turning me into a lady. A lady. I have 
always liked the way that word sounds and the images 
that form in my mind. I think of a small petite woman in a 
soft silken blush dress with a delicate nose and large eyes 
surrounded with yielding blond tresses, standing enclosed 
by men of all ages begging for a glance. The dress just did 
not fit. It was too late for me to be mutilated into a young 
southern debutant. I had already been raised by a man 
and several crazy women that people nervously laughed 
with in grocery store lines. It was too late, but she never 
ended her crusade; instead, she was more determined. I 
was told daily I was too short, my feet turned in when I 
walked, my green eyes were dull, my boobs and butt were 
too large, and the tangled mess of curls was too rowdy. I 
never paid enough attention to other peoples' feelings, I 
spoke to harshly and too quickly, I smiled too much with 
too many teeth, I laughed too easily, and I always had 
paint and charcoal covering my forearms and clothes. I 
was a mess of a person in her eyes and at every moment I 
was reminded of it. The more she hated what I was the 
more I improved on all the faults she accused me of. It 
became fun. We danced back and forth with compromises 
until I was sure she would give up. It never happened. 

"Hey Lin... you've fallen into yourself again haven't 
you?" 

"Uh-huh. Sorry." 
"Wanna talk about it?" 



Calliope 19 

"Nope. I think I am going to look for some Oreos. 
Want some?" 

"I wish! I miss you. Ill call you tomorrow night. 
Usual time?" 

"Sounds good. Love you." 

I hung up and began my thirty minute search for 
Oreos and a diet soda. My lips seemed to pout with a 
mind of their own as mine wandered on. Whether I am 
hunting for a soda or stalking a stem of grapes in the 
bottom of the fruit basket it always seems to take me at 
least thirty minutes in the kitchen. I have to open and 
close the refrigerator door three times, then I move to the 
pantry and search with my fingertips, and finally I open 
and close the freezer three times. My first choice just isn't 
right, so I move onto the second, and then my third choice 
and the choices continue to stack on top of one another 
until I decide I wasn't hungry in the first place. I finally 
found the Christmas tin filled with Oreos on the top shelf 
of the pantry. As I ran my fingers over the rough painted 
tin lid, I thought of the woman that gave it to me. I bet she 
actually spent time finding the right one instead of giving 
me one someone else had filled for her. I imagined her 
picking up several dozen different tins until she found the 
perfect one. I know she did, because it was covered with 
my favorite icon of winter: snowmen. I thought of her 
wrinkling her eyes in the corners without even realizing the 
skin's slow movement towards her brow. I saw her 
straight blond hair braided out of her face and her easy 
pink lips spread thin as she thought of me. I am sure that 
is how the tin came to me. 

Of all these women that have molded me, this one 
woman, the chooser of the Snowman Tin, stands out as 
the exception. I won't mold her arms out of plastic or 
attach a distant smile. I won't stamp a number on her 
forehead and see only that number when I see her. I will 
see her. Her name is Debbie and she belongs to my 
husband. She tells me often that she loves me in my 
jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, and baseball caps. She loves my 
freckles, curls, laugh, and is never irritated by my honesty. 
She secretly laughs at my horrible humor and shakes her 
head at my wandering mind. She often talks about me as 
if I am not there, but then turns and smiles in my direction 
and says, "That's my Lindsey." I am sure I could do 
anything horrible or good and she would smile and repeat 
"That's my Lindsey." 



20 



I would love to tell you that this woman was the 
mother I always dreamed of having. The one that loved me 
for being different and never placed a blame on my 
shoulders that I could not brush off. I would love to tell 
myself this, to tell her this, but I can't. It isn't true. I 
wanted one of my own. I wanted the one I had. I wanted 
Mommy Number One to love me, teach me, show me, mold 
me, but she couldn't and can't still. I wonder if I had had 
a mother of my own if I would wear makeup, fix my hair, 
wear skirts and dresses, match my clothes better, tell false 
truths to save feelings, have girlfriends, and ultimately be 
a better girl. 

I don't know what I would have been, but I do 
know what I am. I am my dad. I see me in his 
stubbornness and his easy truths. Some nights my dad 
echoes apologies over Oreos and milk and when his 
forehead wrinkles towards the center, and his eyes shine, I 
see that he suffers for these mothers. On these Oreo 
nights he does not need to speak because we share 
without words and endure our own thoughts. I start our 
silent dance by sliding an Oreo towards his fingers as he 
turns his gaze out a window that is not there. 

"Hey... Dad. What do you think about all the new 
types of Oreos they have come out with? I want to try the 
mint ones, but I don't want to buy a whole bag because I 
know I am not gonna like 'em. What one would you try? 
Dad? Hello?" 

"Well, Lindsey, at least I have given you something 
to write about." His eyes wrinkled in my direction as he 
slid the paper napkin with the tower of Oreos towards his 
milk. "I think I would like the white chocolate covered 
Oreos. Easy on the milk twerp! You're allergic to it. You 
would think you would learn not to drink it. Seeing how 
you are doubled over in pain an hour later." 

I shrugged towards the ceiling and allowed half of 
my mouth to mimic my wrinkled eyes: "It's worth it." 



Calliope 2 1 



For My Father 

Jessica Martinez 



That morning 

My sister dressed our mother. 
She chose cream and taupe- 
Carried the clothes 
To the funeral home 
Alone 
I was told- 
(I could not do it.) 
Instead, I wondered 
If they really 
Cut the clothes 
Up the back. 
I imagined them 
Washing our mother's body. 
She'd have hated it- 
She was so private- 
So private that 
We would let 
Nine Months 
Pass before we cleaned 
Out her dresser, her drawers, 
Her closet. 
So private 

That she folded each one of us 
Into the five cubby holes 
Of her heart- 
Separately, 
Inside her- 
There was no room 
For my father. 



22 



The Death of the Piano 

Ditrie Sanchez 



No. 1 

tap. 

i pull the lever 

tap. 

and then i wonder 

tap. 

what that blue stain 

tap. 

came from on her shoe 

tap. 

it might be some 

tap. 

long forgotten gumball 

tap. 

she stepped in 

tap. 

without even realizing 

tap. 

and now she has to 

tap. 

get the gooey thing 

tap. 

all over me 

tap. 

and why 

tap. 

does she 

tap. 

always 

tap. 

get so 

tap. 

excited 

tap. 

when all i need 

tap. 

is a bit more 

tap. 

space between measures 

tap. 



Calliope 23 

my favorite part of being 

tap. 

the stretching of time 

tap. 
that comes at the end. 
there- 
she's done. 



No. 2 

settled moments 
in between beatings 
i watch as the others are struck 
with cruel hammers 
from underneath- 
right in the belly 
and they don't shout 
but quaver and rejoice 
they are tortured 
in harmony 
C! 
i can sing with them 
C! 
my abuser is wrathful 
C! 
the tide will pass 
c! 
the pounding is not too hard 
C!! 
the thrashing is blinding 
c. 
"It is finished." 



24 



No. 3 

i sit in a dusty hall 

where a century wrongs me 

by leaving me desolate. 

the halls once throbbed 
with the mechanics of my substance. 

i was music once. 

at the time i didn't appreciate 

the pounding of ignorant children- 

the futile tinkering of adults with wooden ears. 

now i would pluck out all my strings 
to suffer the inconvenience of inexperienced hands. 

but gone are the days where knowing fingertips 
brushed my keys as to lover's lips 

pulling the delicate sounds 
that intoxicate the puritanical soul. 

here is the reprimand 

for the haughtiness of my youth: 

that i should be a piece of furniture 

sitting idly by while around me 

the music taunts- 

as a painting calls to the eyes of the blind... 

unwanted- 

i wait in my corner, 

ever a silent penitent 

until the Judgement Day. 



Calliope 25 

Horton 

Matthew Adams 

Old Horton stays in the double wide, 
watching sports with the smoke he hides. 
Sometimes he comes out for a golf cart ride, 
down to old Chechessee for the coming tide. 

Old Horton looks up into the sky, 
sees in heaven Crazy Mary and so he sighs. 
Horton wants nothin' more when he dies, 
just huntin' and fishin' without suits and ties. 

Old Horton then was touched by an itch. 
Thought of the things he could do being a crazy wretch. 
So he grabbed his whisky and his boat he unhitched, 
and took the truck to Charleston just before lunch. 

Old Horton took to the city in all his splendor. 

Blue jeans, boots, camouflage shirt, and orange 

suspenders. 

Mosied to the Market, ate at Henry's 

looked for a girl for his pocket, and kicked for dreaming. 

Old Horton made his way to Charleston Place, 
looked for a room but would not pay the price. 
Lady told him, snubbed him, laughed in his face. 
She wasn't southern, her attitude a disgrace. 

Horton, touched and feeling blue, 
took his money and watched a man shine his shoe. 
Without a lot of money the metro is not for you, 
just another place where a man can lose. 

Old Horton jumped in the truck and drove home, 
4-cylinder GMC for a man with a frown. 
No-more now does Horton city roam, 
sits watchin' TV, smokin' in his doublewide home. 

Old Horton a man grumpier n' hell. 

Pop up chair, Lazyboy made of felt. 

The laughing box, images of manipulative spells. 

Still lowcountry cooking keeping his sense of smell. 



26 



Operation "Let's Ride' 

Christi Healan 



I turned my key and opened the door and there he 
was sitting in the recliner smoking a cigarette, the usual 
annoying clamor of the television absent. I immediately 
noticed his fatigues and boots making up the mound in 
the middle of the floor. "What are those doing out here?" I 
asked. "I was wearing them earlier." "For what?" I asked, 
surprised. "I went for a walk. Is that okay." It was August 
and he had been out of the Army for 3 months, so I 
thought it a bit strange. "So how long were you out walk- 
ing?" "About an hour... I think there was an Iraqi following 
me." 

I met Micah last February right around the time my 
divorce was final. He was everything my ex-husband was 
not. He was tall. This was important because I had just 
spent the last six years kissing a man that was nearly two 
inches shorter than me. I had grown quite accustomed to 
wearing flat shoes. Micah was a towering 6 '4 and huge; I 
can hide my own large frame behind his vast back and 
shoulders. He had read nearly as many books as I have, 
which meant intellectual and stimulating conversations, 
opposed to the countless times I had to explain the mean- 
ing behind Adaptations, or what lethargic meant, or how to 
spell e-c-o-n-o-m-y, for example. He was awesomely free- 
spirited, and when asked what he felt like doing he simply 
replied: "Whatever you want, I'm down to ride." 

Micah thought I was funny, and I thought he had 
great teeth. He encompassed everything that was inher- 
ently male that I had felt deprived of during my previous 
relationships. He was strong and strong-minded, not afraid 
to stand up to me or to anyone else for that matter, and 
within that realm I felt completely safe. He was a soldier. 
He was an Army of One. He had spent seven months in 
Iraq during the beginning of the War in a Bradley tank, he 
had swam in the Euphrates Fdver, he had played soccer 
with little Iraqi boys before Iraq's soccer team made it to 
the Olympics. He also survived a six-hour mission that 
turned into a two-day ambush, remained at the front lines 
of a combat zone for six months, witnessed burning and 
decaying bodies in the streets accompanied by the smell of 
urine, feces, and decaying flesh. Dark things and dark 
secrets behind those lovely brown eyes and behind the 
lovely white smile were about to boil over the surface and 
spew out of the kettle onto the stove and down the side of 
the oven to dribble on the floor. If only someone had been 
watching the pot. 

He moved in with me in May, after he got out. The 
next two months were spent adapting to each other's 
cleanliness, or his lack thereof, his search for a job, and 



Calliope 27 

several trips to the emergency room for his sharp chest 
pains and unexplained stomach cramps. By August he had 
been through three jobs, the longest lasting just a month. 
One night in July stands out in my memory... it was dark 
in the bedroom; I was pulled from sleep by his right hand 
clasped tightly around my wrist and his left around my 
right ankle. He was tugging on me. I tried to writhe my 
limbs free from his grip but he held on tighter. "A female 
officer is on the way to process you. We can't deal with 
female prisoners." His voice sounded dull and forced. I 
shouted his name, "MICAH! Wake up!" He tugged on my 
arm and yelled "Stay where you are!" I pulled myself free, 
shouting at him and shaking his shoulder to wake him up. 
He rolled over and hissed at me: "I'M TRYING TO SLEEP!!!" 

By mid August I was starting a new semester at 
college and desperately awaited the arrival of my financial 
aid check. Micah hadn't held a steady job since he moved 
in and all the weight of paying the bills and making sure 
we had food rested on my shoulders. I was broke, swim- 
ming in new debt and starting to feel helpless and frus- 
trated. Opening my credit card statements was a thing I 
abhorred, and I constantly berated him for leaving on the 
occasional light or spending too long in the shower: "You're 
wasting water! You are costing me money I don't have!" 
"Why don't you get a damn job and buy your own fucking 
cigarettes!" It took everything and then some that I made 
at my restaurant job to get by, but I was determined to go 
to school and just work when I could. I didn't quit school 
when my ex-husband told me he'd gotten another woman 
pregnant. I didn't quit school when I finally left the mar- 
riage nearly two years after that and my Dad had a qua- 
druple bypass three weeks later. I thought I could work 
full time and still make it at college. I was unprepared for 
the challenge. 

In late August, Micah finally went to the V.A. 
clinic in search of reasons for his chest and stomach pain 
not to mention the increasing inches around his middle. 
He was given Clonopin and Prozac for his anxiety and was 
told that panic attacks were the reason for his unexplained 
pain and sudden racing heartbeat. It was an unfortunate 
misdiagnosis. 

I don't know how it escalated to that point. The 
events of that September day leading up to that hour were 
lost in the adrenaline running in my blood, the angry stabs 
of my tongue, and the sudden overwhelming, fearful 
realization that what he was doing wasn't on purpose. We 
had been arguing. Shouting. Hurling accusations and 
obscenities of the kind that over the last few months had 
gotten worse and worse. I left the room to retreat to my 
angry tears. I decided I needed a cigarette. When I came 
back into the living room, he was sitting on the floor in his 
underwear in front of the coffee table with all his pills 
scattered about on the table, the empty bottles thrown to 
the side. He was shoveling them in his mouth. "WHAT 



28 



ARE YOU DOING!" I shouted. I completely ignored his 
muffled answer. I lunged for the pills, grabbing a handful 
and spilling the rest on the floor. He immediately tried to 
wrestle them from my hand, trying to pry my vulnerable 
thumb from my fingers while 1 shouted at him to STOP! 
STOP! STOP! His impact pushed me to my back on the 
floor and for a moment I watched his sorrowful and defiant 
eyes looking down desperately at my hands, his mind 
figuring the best strategy to defeat my fists and take the 
pills from me. He stopped and stingily grabbed at the pills 
on the floor and got up and ran down the hall to the guest 
bathroom, locking the door behind him. 

When the paramedics and police arrived, he sat 
defiantly tearful on the couch, his arms folded across his 
chest. I was chain smoking, trying to calm my shaking 
hands and forced breathing. The five officers surrounded 
him in the living room, asking him to go easily. When they 
saw the big angry giant of a man refusing to let the para- 
medics in the house, they predicted an altercation, fol- 
lowed by an arrest. "You guys don't scare me! I'm a com- 
bat veteran! I'm certified in hand-to-hand combat! I can 
take all of you! You better respect me! Don't you know I've 
killed people?!" "Micah", I said, "You are going either way. 
If you resist this you'll just go to jail after they take you to 
the hospital" 

He was taken to a private mental health hospital in 
Brunswick. He was there for two weeks. I made the hour- 
long drive ten of those fourteen days to see him. The first 
time I saw him in his room, he was sitting up Indian-style 
by the head of his bed, intensely fragile, with tears that 
sprung from his eyes when he saw me walk in. The strong, 
confident man I had fell in love with had been replaced by 
a shell of his former self. It was still Micah on the outside, 
but he was a stranger. I had never met this Micah. I was 
afraid, and I hurt for him. I knew then that he wasn't lying 
around the house unmotivated to find work, or isolating 
himself from everyone and picking fights with me, accusing 
me of cheating or flying off the handle over the smallest 
detail just to be an asshole. It was Post Traumatic Stress 
Disorder, and it had taken over his mind and his body. 
The Clonopin and Prozac given to him by the V.A. made 
him manic. He was fragile, damaged, and needed me more 
than ever. I was no longer angry. I no longer felt taken 
advantage of. I wrapped my arms around him and he 
nuzzled his face in the curve of my neck. We rocked back 
and forth on his bed, his tears burning hot on my skin, my 
lips whispering promises in his ear. 

He was prescribed a cocktail of five different psy- 
chotic drugs... one for this, one for that. He was a zombie. 
He finally found a job working part time. He was supposed 
to follow up with a different V.A. doctor. I dropped two of 
the four classes I was taking because I overspent my sick 
days driving to Brunswick trying to make the visiting 
hours. I went to the library and checked out every book I 



Calliope 29 

could find about PTSD, gorging myself with the stories and 
treatments of other veterans who had endured the illness 
and how they coped. There was nothing written about how 
their families coped. I spent a lot of time watching him, 
asking if he was okay, and worrying if he was going to be 
like this for the rest of his life, and if I could deal with that. 

On a Friday night in late September I got a call at 
work. "I love you," his sad voice told me. "Hey, what's up? 
I'm kind of busy." " I just wanted to tell you that I loved 
you." Immediately, I felt my stomach threaten to jump out 
of my mouth, felt the butterflies screaming vengefully. 
"What's going on Micah?" and there was only silence. "I'm 
coming home!" I told him. "No! Don't come here!" he said 
with authority. I hung up the phone, searching frantically 
for my boss. I told her I had to go right away and I was 
sorry on my way out of the door. I drove the ten minutes 
home, threw open the door and found him once again in 
the living room, crying, his opened bottles on the island 
and his pills out in front of him on the table. I hurried 
towards him, and then I saw the knife in his hands. 
"Micah, what are you doing?" I said in a tender fury. 
"Christi, I can't take this. I just want to stop it all." I knelt 
down in front of him and in a soft voice I made my plea: " 
Honey, if the meds aren't working, then we'll go back to the 
doctor and tell him. Youll go to some counseling, you can 
join a support group.... you are going to get through this, it 
will just take some time, that book said it could take 
months... I love you... Please! I'm going to marry you and 
you are going to father my children..." It was another night 
spent in the emergency room, followed by Micah spending 
three days at another mental health facility where I could 
only see him thirty minutes a day in a supervised visit. 

By the end of October I was growing impatient. I 
was struggling in my two classes, struggling at work, 
worried about leaving him alone, and if he would find the 
pills that I had taken great pains to hide from him. I didn't 
have any money. I went through my school money within 
a month and a half. We couldn't go out, have dinner, rent 
a movie... nothing extra. We were confined to the house. 
At least his boss was gracious enough to understand that 
he was having difficulties, and they seemed very proud and 
somewhat self-righteous about the fact that they were 
supporting someone who had served their country. No, 
really... I'm thankful they held his job for him, although the 
meager paycheck he brought home barely covered gas and 
cigarette money, and his hours were being cut. He wasn't 
taking his meds the way he was supposed to, he was still 
confrontational and edgy, slurring his speech at times and 
non-respondent at others. The worst came when he began 
to use the illness as a crutch and used it to get out of 
responsibility or to get his way: he couldn't get up for 
work because his medication made him too drowsy in the 
morning, or he couldn't drive anywhere because of his 
medication. I began to think he didn't want to get better. 



30 



"The neighbors are laughing at me," he said angrily 
one night in late October. "No, they aren't. What are you 
talking about?" We had argued all day over little minute 
insignificant things, just to argue, because it became easy 
to argue with him and keep my defenses up. "They are 
laughing at me just like you are. They think I'm crazy." I 
smirked back at him, "Well, what are you gonna do about 
it?" He got up out of the chair, his eyes distant, and 
walked toward the front door pausing to tell me over his 
shoulder as he walked outside: "I'm going over there to kill 
them." He made it to their bottom step before I reached 
the gate of our fenced-in yard, yelling at him to get his ass 
back in the house or I was going to call the police. 

I learned to recognize Micah's episodes by his 
sudden erratic behavior, his jumpiness, the flitting back 
and forth of his eyes. A sudden noise, a car horn, some- 
one yelling out unexpectantly made him suck in a short 
breath and gasp in fear. The flashing headlights of an 
oncoming car or a flashlight made him have a flashback of 
the cars in Iraq flashing their lights in signal of an am- 
bush. The sound of Frenchie, my Siamese cat, jumping 
from the counter to the floor drew him from slumber and 
sent him in search of "enemies" throughout the house. 
Commando-style, he armed himself with a knife because I 
took the shotgun I inherited from my ex to my dad's house 
and away from his searching hands. He would peek 
around the corners of doors, bending low and stabbing at 
the air of a darkened room before he entered. When we 
were out in public he thought people were talking about 
him, laughing at him. He accused me of seeing my ex- 
husband behind his back... fat chance. I learned to adapt 
to his mood swings and tiptoe around him while at the 
same time I became more aggressive. I had to. 

"I think I need to go to the V.A. clinic tomorrow and 
talk to someone. I'm not getting better. The meds aren't 
working." I supported that completely and I met him there 
after I got out of class the next day. I arrived in time to see 
him sitting in a small gray chair at the end of the hall by 
the side exit. As I approached, he looked up and found my 
eyes, his own streaming hot defeat down his face. "They're 
sending me to Charleston," he told me with trepidation. 
The V.A. Hospital was in Charleston, and they were send- 
ing him on the two-hour ride in an ambulance. They were 
leaving in ten minutes. He had nothing to take with him, 
no change of underwear, no toothbrush, and no extra 
socks... nothing. No notice. I waved at him from the 
parking lot as I watched his shell ride away. 

He was in the mental health wing on the third floor 
for two weeks. His meds were switched around and 
around again. I went to see him four times. I drove the 
two hours, having lost myself sixty miles too far north the 
first time, to visit with him for one hour and then driving 
the two hours back to my empty house, back to Frenchie 
and my two dogs, back to sit on my couch and look at the 



Calliope 3 1 

lonely recliner where Micah always sat. I hoped that this 
was the last time. 

By early November, Micah had been back from 
Charleston for two weeks. He never went back to his job. 
He was embarrassed at having taken so much time off 
because of the illness and couldn't face his boss. But he 
started to smile. He started looking for another job. He 
started talking about going to school. I was growing 
hopeful despite my gut. The two weeks were short lived. 
On a Thursday night in mid November we argued 
heatedly about this and that and everything, and with 
every verbal lashing we tossed at one another the situation 
escalated. I knew it was growing out of control, but I was 
overcome with fury and rage. He took the bottle of pills and 
ripped open the cap and threw 5 pills in his mouth. "Do 
you want me to keep going? Ill do it!" "GO AHEAD!" I 
screamed at him. He took two more. "Aren't you going to 
call 911? Go ahead and call em," he hissed. He went to 
the kitchen and pulled a knife from the drawer and bran- 
dished it in the air, "111 fucking slice my wrist!" I screamed 
at him: "Well when I see some fucking blood spewing, 
maybe then 111 call 911!! Go ahead and just do it already!" 

I had supported Micah for six months, since he 
moved in with me. I took care of everything. I was the one 
working my ass off so we had lights to turn on, hot water 
to bathe in, food to eat, a phone to reach out and touch 
someone, gas for both cars to get around in. I was about 
to fail both the classes that I missed at least once a week 
because I was too tired to get my ass out of bed and go, 
much less keep up with the assignments. I did most all of 
the laundry, the cooking, all the shopping, the vacuuming, 
the mopping, I cleaned up his vomit when his stomach 
rejected his medication... and I was tired. 

"Call your uncle and tell him to buy you a bus 
ticket, I want you out of here," I didn't need the hassle. I 
had already proved to myself that I could make it on my 
own, no matter how drastically tight the times were. It 
would be easier if the only person I had to support was 
myself, "You don't care about getting better, you wanna 
use this illness as an excuse to sit around and let someone 
else take care of you and I wont do it anymore. You will 
NOT talk to me like I'm a fucking dog or say FUCK YOU to 
me after everything I've done for you. This is my fucking 
house, and everything in it is mine and I deserve better 
than this bullshit!!!" He pled with me for another chance 
and made the usual promises that he would change, but I 
knew that if I gave in, if I backed down, then he would 
know he could do or say whatever he wanted. I drove him 
to the bus station the next morning at five thirty, fighting 
with myself the whole way. 

It must have been obvious from my red- rimmed 
eyes and tear-stained face, to the strangely intimidating 
onlookers at the bus station, that we had been fighting. 
They stared at us from the time we walked through the 



32 



doors to the ticket counter, and feeling their eyes on us, 
back outside. We came upon a homeless man just outside 
the entrance who rebutted us until Micah gave him all of 
his change on the way back to my truck. There he was 
with nothing but the clothes on his back and what he 
could stuff into his duffle bag, giving the homeless man 
every cent he had left to his name. We said goodbye in the 
parking lot; me in the warm truck with the window rolled 
down and Micah outside the door telling me he understood 
why I was making him leave, and that it was okay. 

It was a glorious weekend of peace. He called me 
Sunday afternoon to tell me he was coming back the next 
day: "I'm coming home tomorrow." "No, your not," I told 
him. I needed more time to be alone, to cope and come to 
terms with what it was that I wanted, and I still didn't 
know what that was. "Uncle Terry says I have to leave, he 
already bought me a ticket back". He had nowhere to go. 
His uncle refused to deal with his episodic aggressive 
behavior, denying that Micah really had PTSD, and pur- 
posefully instigated confrontations with him. The rest of 
his family is in Washington, and told him he had to deal 
with his own problems and that they wouldn't finance his 
trip back home to them. They knew better than anyone 
that Micah still had some fight left in him, it was what they 
called "tough love." 

So, I went to pick him up from the bus station, only 
three days after I left him there. It was seven in the morn- 
ing, damn cold, and he was outside the front entrance 
smoking a cigarette, wearing a pair of jean shorts and a 
pullover fleece. He came back with everything he took with 
him except four major items: the pills for depression, the 
pills for anxiety, the pills for sleep, and the pills for mood 
(or psychotic behavior). Micah 's predisposition for absent- 
mindedness served as an unexpected blessing in those 
moments in his uncle's house when he hastily packed his 
Army duffle bag to catch the bus back home. His uncle 
refused to send his medication to him because he wasn't 
going to pay for the shipping cost. After a few weeks of 
withdrawals, instead of fumbling about in a drug-induced 
haze, Micah began to walk, speak, and think with a clear 
head. His episodes all but ceased, only allowing for the 
occasional fitful sleep that brings images of a war he 
survived over a year ago now, images and memories I can 
never know. 

He went out every day to look for a job, and found 
one within three weeks of being back. He received his first 
check just in time for the holidays. He likes his job and 
now looks forward to going to work and being able to give 
me money to keep us warm and fed. Hell be starting his 
own college career in a few months. There are no more 
angry fights and screaming. No more accusations or anxi- 
ety. No more pills. He came home to me a changed man, 
determined to defeat the thing that he had allowed to 
conquer him when a war couldn't. It took some patience, 



Calliope 33 

but now he laughs every day. He greets me with a smile 
and dinner ready after a long night at work. He regained 
the confidence and ambition that radiated from him when 
we first met. This is the Micah I knew was inside the shell. 

February brought with it the sudden passing of a 
year since Micah stumbled into my life across a dim and 
smoky dance floor. Our anniversary was on a Sunday. 
The Friday night before, I was working when he came to 
see me an hour before I got off. He came in the front door 
with a large vase of roses, carnations, gladiolas, daisies 
and a smile. He greeted my smile by telling me that was 
only the beginning. He told me he had talked with his 
family in Washington and that they were sending us an 
anniversary gift by UPS and to make sure I was going to be 
home between 2-3 while he was at work the next day. I 
slept until one and then pulled myself out of bed to shower 
and get ready for another long night at work. At 3:17 I 
heard a knock at the door. I peeked out of the diamond- 
shaped window to see a woman waiting with another vase 
of flowers for me. I thought ' Aww, they sent us flowers... 
that's nice." I thanked the woman, closed the door and 
pulled open the card. It said: "Surprise! I love you, 
Micah." So I went to work with a smile plastered to my 
face. Around 5:00 I was waiting for business to pick up, 
lounging against a counter sipping on Mr. Pibb when the 
Host called my name. The same woman from earlier was 
there with another huge vase of flowers... I was stupefied. 
The card said: "The next year will be sweet. Let's ride." On 
Sunday he blindfolded me and drove me downtown to a 
cozy little restaurant that I'd wanted to go to for years and 
never got around to it, the whole time asking me "Are you 
peeking?" and "Do you know where you are?" I smiled so 
much that day that my cheeks hurt and my teeth and 
gums grew dry. 

The experiences of war didn't take Micah 's body, 
but it ravaged his mind after the sand was washed away. 
He became the kind of casualty that they don't report on 
the news, a silent casualty of PTSD. He explored the 
depths of his own sorrow and knew regret unlike any most 
people experience. I can never know what it is like to 
survive seven months of fighting in a hostile desert, what it 
is like to be constantly on guard, to know I must kill or be 
killed, to see bodies lying in the streets of a city, or what 
it's like to live with the kind of remorse that comes with 
taking another life. But I know what living with the after- 
math is like. It was a lesson resisted, hard learned, and 
rewarded. I know that whatever future lessons are in store 
for us, I'm down to ride. I was watching Seabiscu.it the 
other night on HBO, and I couldn't stop myself from crying 
at something the owner of Seabiscuit said to the horse's 
trainer about their jockey who was blind in one eye: "You 
don't throw a body away just because he's banged up a 
little." 



34 



Visitor 

Katherine Foote 

I hear him, down the hallway, shutting the door, 

water running. 

I'm in my bed, listening. 

Female Me 

Uncontrollably acute 

Patiently impatient. 

My hair brushes my shoulders, my breath melts 

quietly in waiting. 

Down the hall, he's brushing his teeth, oblivious 

to the girl in the dark. 

Or maybe he does know 

his power like 

the moon's pull on the tides 

and that the water flooding the marshes 

swells and sifts — 

the current runs strong 

and drowns itself 

then empties out into the ocean with one huge 

sigh- 



He spits out his toothpaste. 
The water snaps off. 



Calliope 35 

Ode to the Wells 

Matthew Adams 

From Marshland Road, 

Right past the oak grove. 
You can drive down a little way, 

Through fields and cows and hay, 
To Old Spanish Wells a different kind of state 

People sippin' on tea eatin' sundried dates. 

But down in the Wells 

Time ain't the same. 
People wastin' life 

On hate and shame. 
Always thinkin' of the past, 

About the other man's whiplash. 
Never trying to forget 

Or let the present represent. 

From Grandmama's cookin' 

To a rainy days lighting. 
To the marsh and the seas, 

And the weeping willows leaves. 
Children are grown with their minds open. 

Time will kill elders prejudice notions. 
But people will come carpetbaggin,' 

Destroying the swamps New York creating. 
But nothing will change the smell of bacon, 

Early mornin' grits and southern fried chicken. 

Give 'em all time to decide, 

If another man will change the tide. 

Building all the city streets, 

At their southern feets. 

Thatll bring all southern folk together. 

Second southern age, brother for brother. 

From a dusty kitchen window 

With old bottles to show. 
In a rusty clawed tub 

Where the daisies are grown. 
A boy so young, 

Barefooted, oh jump the dunge. 
Growin', learnin', beatin' away time. 

Tryin' to make plans, 



36 



While trying to make a dime. 



In a Carolina Wilderness, 

Small towns and quietness. 
Soon to be taken all away 

By big city folk, who can't stand to live day to day 
In the smog of their own concrete, 

Fightin' traffic, the flies, the smoldering heat. 



So a carpetbagger says: 
"Let's bring the fam, 

To South Carolina's beautiful land. 
Rip up all the trees 

kill the locals like fleas. 
They'll take our big city cash, 

While we ruin and turn their state to trash." 

Concrete, feel the heat, 
Can't walk with barefeet. 



From a tall building window a man thinks back, 

About runnin' through the woods following a deer 

track. 

Wind in his face and his brother's a laughin.' 

A time so still, while the machine is in motion. 



Calliope 37 



Lunch Break 

Autumn Flynn 



Doug and Walter ate at dusty booth listening to the 
usual clanking dishes and tinny country music. Flakes of 
dried clay peeled off their work boots and dusted the floor 
underneath the table. It was Lorraine's every day at lunch 
and they always came back to the job site smelling like 
cigarettes and fry oil. Walter refused to think about re- 
turning to work as he clumsily massaged his searing back. 

"Could you pass the salt?" 

Lorraine's fries were always soggy and bland. They 
were irresistibly bad. Walter needed some salt to make 
them go down easier. Three and a half shakes did it every 
time. 

"Doug. Pass the salt would you?" 

Doug emerged from his dripping cheeseburger. He 
stared at Walter as he gnawed on a wad of burger. 

"Why can't you get it?" 

Walter blinked. The dented salt shaker touched 
Doug's juicy plate. 

"Why? Because it's rude, that's why." 

Doug gulped his mouthful. "How is it rude?" 

Walter's hands fell on the sticky table. "Because I'd 
have to reach over your plate to get it." 

"Oh, I wouldn't mind." Doug took another healthy 
bite of his burger. 

Walter snagged the greasy baseball cap off his head 

and scratched his thinning hair. The 
smell offish made his throat tighten. Lorraine was making 
a tuna melt. He conjured a chuckle. 

"Come on now, man. Just pass me that salt." 

Doug set the burger on his plate and scanned 
Walter. "What do you need salt for anyway?" 

"Well, for the fries of course. Just toss it over here 
please." Walter's left knee shook up and down. Doug 
reached his hairy arm across the table and plucked a fry 
from Walter's plate. He shoved it into his mouth and 
chewed. Walter shook his head slowly. 

"These fries don't need salt." 

Walter sputtered. "What'd you do that for?" 

Doug picked up his burger and shrugged. "If I can 
reach across the table for a fry, you can reach across the 
table for the salt." 

Walter glanced at the salt shaker. The steam from 
his fries had departed minutes ago. The tips of his fingers 
tingled. He glanced at Doug smacking his lunch. Walter 
sat still. 



38 



"You know, my back is really killing me today." 
Doug wiped his stubbled chin with a napkin and a 
tomato seed clung to his sideburn. "Yeah? Maybe 
you should stretch it. Lean over here and get your 
own salt." 



Calliope 



39 



Viking Funeral 

Bonnie Rae Terrell 



Inspector Aberdine stretched a hand toward his 
coffee (for which he felt a desperate need), but found 
himself confronting the brutal reality that if he wanted a 
sip of the precious sanity-saving beverage, he would have 
to get up and pour himself another cup. He weighed the 
pros and cons, decided that he did not have the stamina to 
survive his current interview on the few sad little grounds 
floating about in the cold brown puddle of coffee residue 
that barely covered the bottom of his paper cup, and 
prepared to pour a fresh helping. He pushed his body up 
and was halfway to standing before he looked over at the 
coffee pot and realized it was empty. He sighed and de- 
flated back into his creaking, squeaking wooden chair. 

The Inspector glared disconsolately at the report 
and the pictures sitting in front of him on his desk. He 
switched his gaze to the small, slim, blonde woman sitting 
across from him in a chair that Inspector Aberdine felt 
certain must be a great deal more comfortable than his 
own. She smiled back at him in a benign, child-like way 
that disconcerted Aberdine into dropping his glare and 
simply looking disconsolate. 

He heaved another deep sigh, shuffled the papers 
in an authoritative and officious manner (well, he saw no 
harm in at least trying to act like any of this made sense), 
settled his hands in a dignified position over his slightly 
rounded early-forties paunch, cleared his throat, and fixed 
the petit blonde with a look that clearly said, "Let's get 
down to business." 

"Alright, Miss Warren, let's get down to business." 
Aberdine bent forward and tapped the report with his 
index finder in a very decisive manner. Miss Warren smiled 
kindly back at him and blinked her blue eyes. He cleared 
his throat. "Now, to be honest, I find it very difficult to 
believe what I've read here," he confessed in a tone meant 
to clearly demonstrate that he was not befuddled in the 
least, merely skeptical. "It says, ah, that you, um, drove to 
the top of the bridge with your recently deceased 
grandfather's body in the bed of your truck. You then 
released him on a tricycle going northbound into south- 



40 



bound traffic. After setting him on fire." The Inspector 
stopped, shooting the woman an expectant look. He waited 
for some sign of disbelief, of outrage, he waited for shouted 
indignation and denial. 

Miss Warren Smiled broadly and nodded her head. 

"Yes, yes that's right," she piped in a small, pleas- 
ant voice. 

Had the desk not been supporting his weight, 
Aberdine would likely have slid straight out of his chair 
and disintegrated through the cracks of the floorboards. 
Instead, he glared again at the papers in front of him 
(mentally cursing them for not being in error) while sneak- 
ing several forlorn glances at the empty coffee-pot. Maybe 
it would be worth the effort to brew another after all. 

"Would you like some more coffee, Inspector? Ill fix 
it for you," chimed Miss Warren. Aberdine snapped his 
head back up and forced himself to affect an air of casual 
not-addicted-to-caffeine unconcern. 

"Oh, uh, only if you'd like some. Doesn't matter to 
me." He shrugged his shoulders and pretended to smile. 
Miss Warren smiled back with a sincerity that made him 
feel like a cheap fraud before moving easily out of her chair 
and over to the coffee-maker. She calmly emptied a leftover 
half-inch of tasteless brown liquid into the soil of 
Aberdine 's one and only office plant and patted its droopy 
leaves sympathetically. 

Since she was turned away, the Inspector permitted 
himself to blink hard and shake his head once. He wasn't 
sure if he did it because he felt so frustrated or because 
this happily deranged woman bewildered him so com- 
pletely, but he was sure he had just given himself a head- 
ache by doing it. 

"Why, Miss Warren?" Aberdine asked as she glided 
to the trash can and disposed of the old, soggy coffee 
grounds. 

"Hm?" She looked at him quizzically. The expres- 
sion on her face reminded Aberdine of a kitten he had once 
had to shoo from sleeping in the bathroom sink at his 
grandmother's house. 

"Why," he repeated while opening the drawer in 
which he kept his can of ground coffee, "did you set fire to 
your dead grandfather-" 

"And send him pedaling off into traffic?" she fin- 
ished for him. The Inspector nodded. "Well," Miss Warren 
continued, taking the proffered can and making her way 



Calliope 4 1 

back across the room, "it was what he wanted." She 
nonchalantly scooped the black grounds into the coffee- 
maker while Aberdine gaped. 

"What do you mean it's what he wanted?'' 

She paid him no attention. Merely hummed a 
chirpy tune as she walked to her bag, removed a bottle of 
water, and poured it into the coffee-maker, which then 
proceeded to bubble and hiss cheerfully, filling the room 
with the familiar caffeine-laden aroma of freshly brewed 
java. It was ambrosia to Aberdine's senses, but business 
had to come first and he single-mindedly resumed his line 
of questioning. 

"What kind of man wants to be burnt up and 
hurled into traffic after he's dead?" 

Miss Warren had reclaimed the seat across from 
him. She met his skeptical eyes, the corners of her pink 
lips turned up slightly, then swept her hands through the 
air between them in an all-encompassing gesture. 

"My grandpa," she said. 

Oh sure, that explained everything! 

Inspector Aberdine was not accustomed to being 
utterly perplexed for excessive periods of time, and it was 
beginning to wear on him. Frankly he found it painful. He 
said, "I'm afraid I still don't understand," with a definite 
edge to his voice. Miss Warren cocked her head, puzzled 
over his annoyance. She sat quietly for a moment, with her 
pale eyebrows furrowed in concentration. 

"Well, Inspector... I suppose I shall just have to try 
and explain Grandpa to you." Aberdine snorted. Still, he 
settled himself as comfortably as was possibly into his 
creaky wooden chair and nodded to indicate he was ready 
to listen. 

However, Miss Warren first took the time to leave 
her chair and head back over to the coffee-maker. She 
poured its dark, delightful brew into a paper cup from the 
stack Aberdine kept next to the pot. He watched her back 
and it struck him how much she resembled the large-eyed, 
delicate-featured porcelain dolls his grandmother used to 
collect (the profit he'd made from auctioning off the useless 
collectibles after the old woman's death padded his savings 
account nicely). The most noticeable difference being that 
instead of curls, Miss Warren's hair looked more like 
yellow dandelion fluff that someone had lightly puffed onto 
her head. She fell just short enough of doll-ish to make 
Aberdine find her, well, mildly attractive. He briefly studied 



42 



one picture of the post-mortem cyclist, taken long ago 
while he'd been among the living. The old Warren didn't 
have much in common with his granddaughter, but he had 
given her the bright eyes, the small face, and the slight 
build; all of which conjured in the mind an image of a 
curious finch. He had also passed down the sincerity in his 
smile, though not, fortunately, the bushy mustache that 
sprouted above it. 

Miss Warren returned with a cup of steaming black 
coffee. She placed it on Aberdine's desk, dropped his 
empty cup into the trash can, then gracefully lowered 
herself into her seat. 

"I thought you were having some too," the Inspector 
said while gratefully lifting the warm cup to his mouth. 

"I changed my mind." 

Aberdine peeked at her over the white paper rim. 
She was not quite smiling for once, but she still wore her 
customary sweet and guileless expression. He felt very 
foolish. But when he took that first blissful sip, he decided 
it didn't really matter. Ah, sweet caffeine... 

"Now: Grandpa." Miss Warren began. "I guess I 
should start from what you already know and work back 
from there. Grandpa always said that he wanted a Viking 
funeral; you know, to be set off onto the water with his 
boat on fire and his body tied to the mast. That was his 
plan, actually." 

The painful suspicion that none of this was going to 
turn out as logically as he wanted gripped Aberdine, 
forcing him to carefully set down his coffee cup. Miss 
Warren continued without taking notice. 

"But Grandpa had to come up with something else 
after an oil tanker ran over his boat and shattered it to 
pieces." 

"And just why was your grandfather sailing in 
shipping lanes very, very far from port?" 

"Oh, it wasn't Grandpa. It was the six felons who 
stole his boat. They were going to run away to Cuba. 
Someone later told me that bits of them washed up on the 
shore there." 

Oh no. One cup of coffee wasn't going to be enough. 

"Anyway, that didn't phase Grandpa. He just 
changed his plans a bit and started all over again. He 
didn't want to take anything from my inheritance, so he 
couldn't afford to buy a new boat. Did I mention Grandpa 
had a really fantastic sense of humor? Well, fantastic 



Calliope 43 

might not be the word. He was British, so he had a British 
sense of humor. But I always thought he was funny." 

Oh ho! This Aberdine could grasp. The mention of 
British humor instantly accounted for quite a lot. He 
sipped his coffee. 

"Grandpa decided he would go on a tricycle. A 
purple one with yellow flames painted on it and white 
wheels. He specially designed it and ordered the parts 
made for his size and assembled it all on his own. It gave 
him something to do for the last three years of his life. He 
was one-hundred-and-four years old, you know." 

"Yes, that was in the paperwork. Excuse me if this 
is a silly question, but... why a tricycle?" 

Miss Warren tilted her head as if she couldn't 
believe Aberdine didn't see the logic. "Why, because it has 
three wheels and won't tip over, of course," she informed 
him. 

"Oh... yes, I see. Smart man." 

"Mm-hm," she nodded her head, smiling fondly. 
"Grandpa told me all about it and how he wanted to be 
sent off on the bridge and everything. We even had a few 
practice runs in the driveway before he died, but we used 
toothpicks instead of matches and no kerosene." 

Aberdine 's (by now overextended) credulity was 
snapping and popping and doing cartwheels across his 
brain. Practice runs? Practice runs?! Who practices for their 
funeral? Well, granted, if it involves traffic and combustible 
chemicals, maybe some practice would be advisable. Oh 
no. Why was he trying to put a logical spin on this crazy 
old man and his lunatic descendent? He needed to get 
back in touch with reality. He needed to force her into 
contact with reality. 

"Wait, wait!" Aberdine exclaimed, thrusting his left 
hand forward with the same desperate motion one might 
see an amateur baseball player use in a vain attempt to 
block the concussing momentum of an unexpected ball 
split seconds before it impacts his cranium. Miss Warren 
obligingly fell silent. The Inspector deposited his reeling 
head into his hands, which in turn shared the weight with 
his elbows, which were splayed on either side of the coffee 
cup into which Aberdine stared intently. He breathed in 
and out slowly, rippling his own brownish-black reflection 
and looking somewhat like a recovering crack addict. He 
squinted his eyes shut, took one last breath, then straight- 
ened up to face the woman whose brains, the Inspector felt 



44 



sure, were fluffier than her hair. 

"Did it... never occur to you," Aberdine tried calmly 
to ask, "I mean, did you never find any of it odd? Your 
grandfather's last wish? That he actually expected you to 
carry it out? Practicing for his own death? It's- it's incon- 
ceivable! People don't do things like that. Why did you go 
along with him? You should have had the old man commit- 
ted!" 

For the first time since he had walked in, Miss 
Warren ceased to look cheerful. Her gaze melted, like her 
smile, and flowed down to the hands she was twisting in 
her lap. She said nothing and the Inspector could see 
nothing except the top of her yellow head, lit by a beam of 
daylight from the window so that she resembled a small 
sun. At first, Aberdine thought he was imagining things, 
but no; he distinctively saw a fallen tear slide its way from 
her thumb down each finger, lingering in the crevices 
between and leaving glistening evidence behind that it had 
been there. He wasn't sure why she took his words so 
harshly, but that didn't stop him from feeling as if he had 
just smashed a butterfly. And it didn't stop him from 
wanting a torrent of cinder blocks to plummet through the 
ceiling and pound him into the foundation of the building 
as punishment for acting like a thoughtless ogre. 

Feeling very, very very sheepish, the Inspector 
eased open a drawer. He lifted out a box of tissues for the 
soundlessly crying woman, then gingerly eased the drawer 
shut again. 

Long seconds in which Miss Warren did not move, 
did not make a sound, only sat in a completely rigid, 
weeping silence that made Aberdine pray harder for a 
cinder block hailstorm. 

At last, he could no longer stand the strain and 
cleared his throat while suggestively nudging the tissue- 
box toward her. Miss Warren looked at it in surprise, 
having genuinely not seen it there. The Inspector looked at 
her in surprise because he had never known anyone could 
cry without their face turning red and their nose swelling. 
He had not known it was possible for tears to be pretty. 

He began stammering an apology while Miss War- 
ren dabbed her smeared cheeks. 

"Uh, I- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. Or 
your grandfather's memory. I, urn... Please forgive me?" 

The eyes she turned on him were so big, so blue, 
and so full of hurt and hopeful trust - like crushed violets 



Calliope 45 

indomitably trying to spring vertical again - Aberdine 
fancied for a moment that the world was consumed with 
blue and he was drowning in it. 

Then she looked down at the papery white square 
in her hand and started to absentmindedly fold it corner to 
corner, allowing the Inspector's mind to surface in his 
uncomfortable chair in his grey office with its pitiful and 
mostly brown little plant. 

"Grandpa wasn't crazy," she murmured. 

"No, no, of course he wasn't," Aberdine hurriedly 
agreed. He shifted about in his seat, crossed his legs, tried 
crossing them the other way, uncrossed them entirely, and 
reached over to put the box of tissues away for lack of 
anything better to do and because Miss Warren seemed to 
be finished with them. He finally screwed himself up to 
admitting, "I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry I was so 
inconsiderate." 

"Grandpa was a wonderful man," she said after a 
moment. "I loved him so much." 

"I'm sure you did." 

"He wasn't crazy. He was just funny. He wasn't 
afraid of anything. He liked to make things. He liked to go 
places. He liked people. He was always so kind," she 
recounted to the white napkin she had folded into a tiny 
triangle. 

Aberdine waited, but she didn't say any more -just 
sat and stared at the tissue. Desperate to loosen the 
tension that was crushing his gut like a sumo-wrestler, the 
Inspector grabbed his cup and moved to the coffee-maker. 
He needed a fresh, hot mouthful, definitely. Never mind 
that his cup was still one-quarter full. He needed some- 
thing that hadn't been cooling and untouched for the last 
five minutes. He needed the pure, scalding caffeine good- 
ness of a fresh cup of coffee. 

What to do with the amount he had left? 

Aberdine considered leaving it and just filling up a 
new cup, but then he noticed his solitary droopy-looking 
plant, and decided to follow Miss Warren's lead. He 
dumped his leftover joe into the plant's soil and picked up 
the coffee pot. He turned to the woman after he had fin- 
ished pouring to ask if she was sure she didn't want any. 
He found her looking from him to the plant with an un- 
readable expression on her face. 

"Um..." it rather unnerved him, "would you, ah, like 
a cup of coffee?" When she caught his eye, he thought, for 



46 



a moment, that she had the electric and excited air of 
someone who has just discovered something that delights 
them to no end. But he blinked and when he looked again, 
she was only smiling slightly. 

"Do you have any sugar and cream?" she asked. 

"I'm sorry, no cream. Only sugar." 

"Well, I suppose just sugar is good enough." The 
way she tilted her head and wore that smile made her look 
as if sadness had never crossed her path and tears had 
never crossed her face. It made Aberdine wonder if he was 
the crazy one and had just dreamed the last few minutes. 

Perplexed, but trying his damnedest not to show it, 
the Inspector poured another cup and sat it in front of her. 
He returned to his chair and opened the same drawer in 
which he kept his ground coffee and produced a box 
containing dozens of little sugar packets. He slid it across 
his desk along with a plastic stirrer that was fortuitously 
hiding behind the coffee can. Being primarily a drinker of 
unadulterated black coffee himself, he watched in disbelief 
as the young woman emptied packet after packet into her 
cup and stirred. Finally, she achieved her ideal sweetness 
and took a sip. Aberdine followed suit and mentally reveled 
in the charming bitterness that sizzled and burned down 
his throat. 

"Grandpa drank his coffee black too," Miss 
Warren's voice came breezing over him unexpectedly. The 
Inspector raised his eyebrows at her in an "oh really, how 
interesting, do continue" manner, thought it actually 
unsettled him slightly to find her scrutinizing his coffee or 
himself so closely. She took another small, contemplative 
sip before continuing. 

"He was used to tea, since he came from England, 
but he learned to love coffee." 

"Ah, yes, you mentioned something about your 
grandfather being British. One of those classic immigrant 
stories where he strikes off to seek his fortune in America? 
Did he jostle about with a thousand other travelers on the 
deck of a ship so he could catch a glimpse of Lady Lib- 
erty?" Aberdine asked, joking somewhat. 

"No," Miss Warren informed him. "He didn't mean 
to come here at all. It was a bit of an accident really." 

Aberdine was intrigued. "How does anyone acciden- 
tally immigrate to another country?" 

"Well, a friend of his got married and Grandpa 
drank a lot at the party. He fell asleep and woke up in 



Calliope 47 

Miami." The Inspector had to set his coffee down and put a 
hand over his mouth to keep from snickering. "He didn't 
see the Statue of Liberty until years later. In fact, it was 
four months before he realized he was in America at all. He 
thought he'd gotten off in Mexico. Since he didn't under- 
stand a word of Spanish, nobody told him otherwise until 
he walked several blocks north and met a lot of English- 
speaking gringos." 

To hear her use the word "gringo" was it for 
Aberdine: he had to laugh. A guffaw leapt from his mouth. 
He sat in his chair and shook with laughter. "Are you 
sure," he calmed himself," are you sure your grandfather 
wasn't just pulling your leg?" 

Miss Warren looked at him, wide-eyed. "That's how 
he always told it." But a tiny grin snuck onto her lips and 
she confessed that Grandpa liked to tell stories and he 
may have embellished a little to make her laugh. 

"Well, I take it your grandpa made it out of Miami?" 
Aberdine continued. 

"Oh yes. It wasn't that he didn't like Miami, he just 
didn't have a head for languages and never could pick up 
on Spanish. So, he took a bus north." 

"Ah, really? What did he do? I mean, how did he 
support himself?" 

"Oh, Grandpa did all kinds of things! He did what- 
ever people needed him to do. Then he met Grandma. She 
hired him to fix her fence. Then she needed him to fix a 
squeaky stair. And then a window needed replacing. 
Grandpa told me he finally realized she wanted him for a 
husband the day she walked into the kitchen and asked 
him if he liked her in pink with white dots." 

Aberdine creased his eyebrows. "What was so 
special about that?" 

"Her underwear was pink with white dots." 

"Oh... OH!" It dawned on the Inspector, and he 
found himself blushing like a fool while Miss Warren 
giggled. Internally, he began comparing her rendition of 
her grandmother's exploits to his own granny's depress- 
ingly tame existence. Her life as he knew it had consisted 
of cats and dolls, plastic over the furniture and, eventually, 
Alzheimer's. Old Mrs. Warren sounded like a grandmother 
he could have liked. 

"But the problem," Young Miss Warren went on, 
"was that Grandma was already married. She and Grandpa 
didn't know what to do about her husband. But things 



48 



turned out ok after she caught him in the shower with a 
local teacher. She got half his money in the divorce, and 
the car. Grandpa told me once that he thought she had 
blackmailed the schoolteacher too. You know, female 
teachers weren't allowed to be married or anything in those 
days. Grandma never would tell him exactly how they 
wound up with an extra three-hundred dollars. Sometimes 
I think Grandma may have been... just a little crazy." 

Aberdine snorted at the understatement. Unfortu- 
nately, he did it while sipping his coffee, the result being 
that he blew a stinging multitude of hot droplets out of the 
cup and onto his face. This triggered a coughing fit and a 
hurried attempt to remove the burning liquid with frenzied 
hand motions, making the Inspector look not unlike a 
frantic raccoon trying to pat out flames on the ends of his 
whiskers. After ascertaining that his eyeballs had not been 
scalded from their sockets, Aberdine had the presence of 
mind to wipe the remaining coffee from his face and mus- 
tache with one of his tissues. He tossed the sodden napkin 
into the trash can, along with his sodden pretense of 
dignity. 

He laced his fingers together, place them (this time 
sans dignity) over his early-forties paunch, looked Miss 
Warren squarely in her blue eyes (which had gone quite 
wide), and leaned back comfortably in his uncomfortable 
chair. 

"Well, I bet those two took that car and drove off 
into the sunset, eh?" 

Her first response was a blink. Then a beaming 
smile. "No," she shook her head and laughed. "The other 
way. They went East, to Atlantic City. They both took jobs 
at a fancy hotel. Grandma had to quit when she found out 
she was pregnant with my father, but Grandpa got pro- 
moted - became the hotel manager eventually. He always 
said it was because they liked his accent. They paid him 
well and Grandma never had to work again. She took up 
skydiving." 

Aberdine smiled. "Sounds like quite a woman." He 
had been flipping through the file on his desk until he 
found the picture he wanted. It was the same one he'd 
been looking at earlier, only this time he pointed to the 
woman next to the man with the bushy mustache and 
asked, "Is that her?" He slid it to the middle of the desk; he 
and Miss Warren leaned over the old snapshot together. 

"Oh yes, that's my grandma!" And that's Grandpa. 



Calliope 



49 



Their hotel used to face the beach they're standing on," she 
gestured excitedly at each part of the photograph - from 
her grandmother who looked like Mae West, to her finch- 
like grandfather, to the wind-frothed surf behind them. 
"Oh look!" she cried in delight. "There's my daddy. Do you 
see him? Right there!" She pointed. Aberdine leaned closer 
and realized there was a small, dark-haired boy in the 
picture. Sort of. He was hiding behind his father's legs, 
which left only his face from the eyes up visible alongside 
one pale little hand clutching Old Warren's pants. 

"Oh... Daddy," the young woman across from 
Aberdine murmured. She gently lifted the picture and 
leaned backing her chair with it. The Inspector watcher 
her, and suddenly wanted to cry. Her fingers and eyes 
touched the black and white image with such unimagin- 
able tenderness, with such tangible love, he simply didn't 
know what to think. He felt sure he had never loved any- 
one that much. He wasn't sure he could love like that. How 
did she do it? Why did this pixie of a woman infuriate him, 
make him laugh, and make him want to cry? He hadn't 
cried at his own grandmother's funeral. He'd spent most of 
his adult life wearing a poker face, doing what it took to 
keep from annoying anybody and collect a decent pay- 
check. Now here this little blonde maniac had the inso- 
lence to push a dead old man down a bridge and com- 
pletely unbalance Aberdine's stable, blank-faced life! 

Miss Warren broke his mental tirade with a sigh 
and a wistful smile at the photograph. Suddenly, the 
Inspector couldn't remember precisely what he'd just been 
thinking and he wasn't sure what he had been getting 
angry about. 

"I remember when Daddy died," she said quietly, 
continuing to lightly trace the picture with one white 
finger. "I was very little, but I remember. I don't know why 
I can't remember my mother. They both died on the same 
day." 

"I'm sorry. I didn't know." 

She turned her huge blue eyes on him and smiled 
serenely while reaching across the desk to return the 
picture. "What I do remember was happy," she said. "I 
went to live with Grandpa after that. He needed someone, 
really. Grandma had just died too." 

"Oh, that's terrible!" Aberdine exclaimed. He felt 
genuinely sorry. 

She nodded. "It was very hard on Grandpa at first. 



50 



She died skydiving and he thought something had gone 
wrong with her parachute, but they didn't find anything 
wrong with it. Then he didn't understand why she didn't 
pull the cord like she was supposed to. Her doctor told him 
later that she had cancer. She had it for years and didn't 
tell anyone. He said that by her last visit it had gotten very- 
bad and she wasn't going to live long. When he found that 
out, Grandpa understood why she didn't pull the cord. He 
felt much better after that." 

The Inspector sat in his chair and gaped. He felt as 
if a large iron spike had just skewered him in place. Some- 
thing ominous throbbed far in the depths of his cerebellum 
and he knew he'd have to deal with one whopper of a 
headache later on. But for now, he just wanted fresh 
coffee. It was time for another cup. Without a doubt, time 
for another cup. 

He heaved himself to a standing position and 
staggered toward the coffee pot, working out the stiffness 
in his legs as he went. He asked Miss Warren if she'd like 
another cup, but she declined. Aberdine stood in front of 
the window, next to his coffee and his plant. He gazed out, 
not thinking or feeling anything for the moment, simply 
drifting. Drifting in the late afternoon light that made the 
asphalt and concrete beautiful, that cast green trees in 
bronze, that lit up the face of the massive old clock tower. 
Which reminded Aberdine that normally he would have 
been home by now, and he had a job to finish. He refilled 
his cup and ambled back to his desk. 

"So," he paused to taste the dark brew, "the only 
relative you had left, and he raised you." His eyes met 
hers, and suddenly the sun shone in his brain, lit with 
comprehension. If the Old Warren had wanted a tombstone 
it would have read, "Grandpa-father, mother, grand- 
mother, friend. Here lies an entire family." Aberdine came 
to understand something about himself in that moment: 
his whole life had been cursed with an overabundance of 
family. He had forgotten their value. But if all you had was 
one person... 

"I think I get it now," he spoke softly to Miss War- 
ren. "I think I'm starting to see how you could love some- 
one enough to do the last thing they ask of you. No matter 
how... unusual it is. You loved your grandfather that 
much, that's why you did it?" 

She nodded. "Yes. What better reason could there 
be?" 



Calliope 



51 



Aberdine tilted his head in agreement. "Hey, I see 
where you're coming from. I'm not sure I see where 
Grandpa was coming from, but I understand why you had 
to do what you had to do. Still, I don't know precisely what 
the legalities on that are. The report is a little sketchy, 
exactly what did you do and how did you do it?" 

"Oh, well, after Grandpa died, I had to use a lot of 
duct tape to keep his hands on the handlebars and his feet 
on the pedals. And he had designed the tricycle with a pole 
so I could make him stay upright." 

"Oh my, the old man thought of everything, didn't 
he?" 

"Usually, if a person lives to be one-hundred-and- 
four it's because they're good at thinking things out." 

"Ah, yes, that makes a lot of sense." 

"Mra-hm. Anyway, I drove to the top of the bridge 
and got him out of the truck. I poured the kerosene every- 
where, like he had shown me, and gave him a little push to 
get him started. Then I struck a match and threw it and 
away he went!" Miss Warren beamed enthusiastically. 

Aberdine sat in his wooden chair and pondered. 
Perversely, a medley of "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love" and 
"Great Balls of Fire" began to play in his head. 

"Didn't you worry that someone might bet hurt?" he 
asked after a short pause. 

"Oh yes, I thought about that. That's why I put him 
in the bike lane. And he wasn't going very fast because the 
bridge isn't very steep. There's not much traffic that late at 
night either." 

The Inspector nodded and pondered some more. He 
chuckled. "I bet it looked quite impressive to those few 
people who were on the road. It's not every night you 
approach a bridge to see a fiery man coming toward you on 
a tricycle. A purple tricycle. With yellow flames and white 
wheels." 

"And a little red flag waving behind," she added, 
with an almost gleeful grin. Aberdine put his head in one 
hand and laughed out loud. 

When he had calmed down and regained his com- 
posure, he closed the file on his desk and tossed the folder 
into a drawer. He leaned forward on his elbows, he fidgeted 
with his mustache briefly. 

"Look, Miss Warren," he began, "I'm not sure how 
all this is going to turn out for you. The circumstances are 
so strange, it's hard to tell how many violations you've 



52 



committed or which laws you've broken -" 

"It's alright," she stopped him. "Grandpa knew 
about all that. There's plenty of money to cover any legal 
bills. Ill be fine." 

She and the Inspector met eyes across the desk. 

"Yes. I'm sure you will be fine," Aberdine stated. He 
smiled. 

They both stood up and he stretched, then made 
his way to the coffee-maker to unplug it. 

"May I use your phone to call a taxi? They've taken 
my license away for right now." 

"Mm? Oh, um... ah... Ill drop you off." 

"Really? You don't have to do that, I don't want to 
keep you out late." 

"No, it's fine. I should have been home 30 minutes 
ago. A little while longer won't matter. Besides, it's Friday. 
Hey, ah... whygostraighthomewouldyouliketostopfor... 
coffee?" Aberdine, with his hand on the near empty coffee 
pot, realized too late how stupid the suggestion was. But 
Miss Warren smiled brilliantly. 

"Coffee would be great," she told him. They left 
together. Aberdine flipped the light switch on the way out 
the door, leaving his office, his coffee-maker, his creaky 
chair, and his plant shining in the sunset glow that 
streamed softly through the window. 



Calliope 



53 



I Can Smile 

Melissa Redding 



It was one of those days that I never thought would 
happen - couldn't believe would ever happen. It was one of 
those years that felt like it passed too quickly. Like when I 
thought summer vacation would never come because I 
couldn't wait for my dad to drive my friends and me to 
Summer Waves. We couldn't wait to pile into that old 
Ford Bronco with our towels that had a cool band on them, 
probably New Kids on the Block or Debbie Gibson. We 
would smell of sunscreen and sing at the top of our lungs 
along with the songs that were on the radio. My dad was 
so cool that he would sing right along with us and then 
pleasure us with a serenade of an oldie song that only he 
knew the words to. We would whine about how uncool the 
song was and then he would just sing louder. Those were 
the good old days that I just couldn't wait to come around 
again; however, they come around so much faster than you 
ever thought they would and are over even faster. This 
was not a happy time that I had waited for. This was more 
of a moment that I never thought I could survive. 

My brother called me at my apartment, the morning 
of January 26, 2002, and woke me up. I was so indepen- 
dent in my new apartment and felt like the most adult 
teenager I knew. He said that I needed to come to the 
hospital because my dad kept asking where I was. "What's 
wrong? Is something going to happen?" I just knew 
everything would be fine. I just knew. I just knew. My dad 
had been diagnosed with cancer, Renal Cell Carcinoma, in 
March. It was kidney cancer, a cancer that not a lot is 
known about. The internet, books, doctors, specialists - 
no one knew anything about his disease. Hours of re- 
search never provided me with an explanation of what 
caused this type of cancer and even more hours of re- 
search never told me what the cure for it was. It didn't 
matter because we were going to make it through this. So 
I got dressed and called the place that I worked and told 
them that I would be about an hour late because I had to 
visit my dad in the hospital. The voice on the other end of 
the phone sounded sad and worried, like she expected 
something bad was happening. I was a little pissed off that 
someone would think so negatively. Didn't everyone know 
that everything would be all right? I would be just fine. 

I arrived at the hospital and walked to his room on 
the fourth floor, which is the oncology floor. The word 
"oncology" just sounds odd. What a name? The room was 
dark and quiet and everyone looked so sad and worried. I 
couldn't understand why they looked that way because 
everything was going to be fine. Just fine. I sat down in a 
mauve chair, a hard chair that I thought should have been 



54 



more expensive and softer because people spend hours 
waiting for their loved ones to get better. They spend 
hours sitting in this chair crying and hoping that things 
will turn out right. They weren't as lucky as I was going to 
be. Some didn't get to see their loved ones survive cancer. 
I sat in that chair and my grandmother came and sat next 
to me and rubbed her fingers through my hair. She 
seemed so sad. I couldn't believe everyone was just giving 
up and throwing in the towel when there was so much 
hope. My dad was never sick. He was a fighter and could 
make it through anything. This man carried me around on 
his back, his shoulders, made me laugh and smile. I have 
his calves, both skinny and without any attractive shape. 
He was also one of the cutest dads on the block. Why 
didn't they think that he could beat something not visible? 
They had no clue how strong he was and how lucky we 
were to have someone so strong. 

The television wasn't on and all I could hear was 
the sound of the heart monitor beeping. It was so annoy- 
ing. I just wanted it to stop. I wanted everything to stop so 
the last year could start all over. The doctor would come 
in, check the monitor, and not even speak. The doctor's 
and nurses all maintained a professional demeanor so they 
wouldn't get attached to their patients or risk letting their 
guard down. They couldn't be compassionate with the 
patient's family. What is wrong with letting your guard 
down? What is wrong with letting someone know that you 
care? 

He was restless. He kept asking, "Is Melissa here? 
Did she come?" And I would tell him that I was right there 
in the room. I tried not to cry because I didn't want him to 
think that I thought he had lost the battle, like everyone 
else thought. I knew better. His legs would just move 
back and forth, back and forth. He looked like a child 
throwing a temper tantrum, only without crying or selfish 
motive. It was like something was holding him down and 
he was trying to kick himself free, but he couldn't and he 
just kept trying and pushing. Trying and pushing. He 
looked so uncomfortable and he would just keep saying, "I 
want to go home. I want to go home." I knew he wanted to 
go home and I couldn't wait until they gave him some more 
blood to raise his hemoglobin level so we could take him 
home finally. Two weeks in a hospital is a long time. His 
legs just kept moving and he would kick the covers off of 
him because he was hot. I didn't understand how he could 
be so hot when he had gotten so skinny and hadn't eaten 
very much. This man's face and body had changed from a 
handsome forty-six year old man to an eighty year old man 
in just eight months. The pictures on the mirror in my 
bedroom taken just a short time earlier showed a man with 
a bright smile, a tan, full face from fishing in the sun, and 
salt-and-pepper hair that only he could make look striking. 
Now, in the hospital bed, there was a man with a sunken 
face, pale, and an almost bald head that was as soft as a 



Calliope 



55 



newborn baby's. I wasn't ready for this, but was sure he 
would bounce back just fine. 

Sometimes I think a person can lose all sense of 
judgment or intelligence when their heart takes over their 
mind completely. It all makes sense to me now, but that 
day I must have been stuck in a dream where I wouldn't 
accept logic. That day I knew that all that mattered was 
that my dad was the greatest man I had ever known and 
that God wouldn't take away a young girl's daddy before he 
walked her down the aisle or became a granddad. Some- 
times all sense of logic is lost upon a dream that is so 
embedded in your heart. 

I remember sitting down in the den of my parent's 
house with my father. His frail body was sitting in the 
chair that would become practically his home for the next 
few months. Sometimes, I still expect to see him sitting in 
the faded blue recliner. The September 1 1 th tragedy had 
just happened and he looked at the television and started 
crying. I had never seen my dad cry before. I thought he 
was crying because of all of the people who had lost their 
lives and would never get to see their loved ones again. I 
never thought that I might not ever see my loved one 
again. My dad looked at me with tears and said, "I am just 
so scared that I won't be here for your wedding day or to 
see my grandchildren." 

"I know you will," I said only smiling and naive 
because I was certain he wasn't going anywhere. 

That day, January 26, 2002, he kept asking my 
grandmother why I was crying and if I was okay. My 
grandmother told him I wasn't upset and then she whis- 
pered in my ear that I should stop crying because he might 
think something is wrong. I tried to stop crying, but it was 
an uncontrollable emotion that I had never felt. I couldn't 
stop and I wasn't sure if it was because I was accepting the 
inevitable or because I was just so frustrated with everyone 
else seeming like they had given up on him. I don't know 
exactly what was happening, but I think my dad somehow 
knew. Some moments I felt like he would kind of go out of 
his mind, like the drugs Oxycontin, Vicodin, Morphine, 
had gone to his head and he didn't know what he was 
saying. Right when I thought he was a little crazy, he 
would reassure me by saying, "111 be okay. I love you." 

How does anyone stay so strong for others? How 
could he have possibly been thinking about my feelings 
and if I was upset when he was the person in the hospital 
bed hanging on to life? How could he have been worried if 
I would be okay when it physically hurt him to even speak? 
How could I have been so selfish to cry at the thought of 
my dad not being there to walk me down the aisle? What 
could we all have done to make this whole situation never 
happen? Pray harder? Go to church more? My dad 
wasn't a bad person - why did he deserve this? How does 



56 



anyone ever know the answers to these questions or is 
there any answer? I don't think there is an answer, only 
more room for questions. 

My mom had been by my dad's side for two weeks 
straight in his hospital room. She didn't leave to take a 
shower. She never left him even when he wasn't the best 
husband in the past. That day, when he started feeling 
better, she left to go take a shower and said to call her if 
anything changed. My grandmother told me a few days 
earlier that the men in our family don't die when there are 
women in the room. I thought it was all crap, but not 
anymore. My mother left to take a shower which was the 
first time she had taken a full shower instead of a wipe 
down at the sink in two weeks. I was getting so upset and 
worked up that my grandmother told me to go to the 
computer room down the hall and go play on a computer. 
I always wanted to feel so independent and secure, but 
that day all that I wanted was to be comforted and held 
like I was when I was a child - when I was daddy's little 
girl. I went down to the computer room and started look- 
ing for scholarships. Something hopeful to tell my dad 
when he recovered because I knew that my mom and dad 
wouldn't be able to afford to pay for my college tuition. 
They would have so many bills to pay when my dad left the 
hospital. My grandmother walked in the computer room 
with my Aunt Debbie and we started talking about - the 
weather, the wall paper, what I was going to do with my 
degree, if I was still dating the same boy, was my car 
running smoothly - what I cannot remember, but for a few 
minutes the whole room was quiet. 

My grandpa ran into the room and said, "He's gone! 
He's gone!" 

That moment when someone runs up behind you 
and screams and your heart stops because you're scared - 
that is how I felt. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. My 
heart never started beating again. There was no sign of 
emotion, not for a few months. The nurse wouldn't allow 
me to see him right away because the nurses want to make 
the patients presentable when that is the last thing on the 
family's mind. After a few minutes that seemed like a year, 
I was allowed in. I never thought I would touch a dead 
person. On television the bodies always look so dead, so 
cold, and inhuman. This was different. I didn't mind 
holding my dad's hand; somehow, all that I could say was 
"He looks so peaceful." I was selfish I guess. I didn't want 
my dad to die but I wasn't thinking of the pain he was 
suffering through just to be a stronger man for me. I was 
daddy's little girl and I was so proud to hold that title. I 
still am. 

Seven years ago, I was only sixteen, I dated a guy 
who's mother died while we were dating. Afterwards he 



Calliope 



57 



just fell apart. He didn't go back to school, he started 
drinking, doing drugs, didn't care if he slept all day, or if 
he even brushed his hair. He was going to be in a band 
and play guitar. He was. He became a different person 
than who I first came to know. I felt like I had to get away 
from him then, or I would end up in the same rut right 
there with him. Seeing him go through the emotions of 
losing a parent, I just knew that if something that sad 
happened to me, I would handle it differently. I would not 
fall apart. No one ever thinks something so awful and 
unexpected would happen to them. Lending an ear to 
listen or a shoulder to cry on is different from being the 
person that needs it. 

So I graduate in May. I only missed one week of 
college and then just bounced back. I never talked about 
the feelings I experienced because I always down played 
them. I would say, "There are worse things in life" or 
"Some people don't even know their dad." This is all true 
but I needed to own my feelings. I needed to know that it 
wasn't selfish for me to want to cry and feel bad. I needed 
to know that everything would be fine, eventually. I 
needed so much more than had been taken from me. 
Everything is so much easier now even though I won't have 
some of the things that other girls will. I do have memo- 
ries of a man that loved me more than he ever loved any- 
one else and would have done anything for me just to see 
me smile or know that I was safe. 

Just the other day I downloaded the song "You Are 
So Beautiful To Me" because my dad would sing that to me 
when we were driving anywhere in his old Ford Bronco. 
We would drive to the dump and empty a trailer full of 
leaves or drive to Woo's Hardware store for some little 
thing he would need to fix something big around the 
house. I can remember the loud engine and the hardness 
of the seats, how tall the truck was and how we would just 
tower over all of the other cars on the road. I remember 
his bright smile and his bubble nose that I am also proud 
to wear and the way he would motion his hands as if he 
was directing a choir. I remember looking at him while he 
would sing the words to me and I knew that I was Daddy's 
little girl, that it was my song. I knew that those moments 
were mine and his only, to remember forever. I listened to 
the song in my car yesterday and for the first time since he 
passed away, I didn't cry. I smiled. 



58 



Fear and Loathing in the Second Grade 

Alicia Ferrell 



The assassination of John F. Kennedy; The explo- 
sion of the Challenger spacecraft; September 1 1 th ; these 
are events that one can never forget. For me, it was the 
collapse of Pat Copeland. I was in the second grade and it 
was during our morning song time. Each morning we 
stood in a circle, there was about thirty of us, and we 
would sing your basic Sunday school songs. I usually 
used this time to inspect the dirt I had collected under my 
fingernails or chew my shoulder length hair (A nasty habit 
that annoyed my teachers), but this morning I felt particu- 
larly inspired and thought I would stand tall, pay attention 
and sing "Fishers of Men" with great gusto. My nemesis at 
the time was a short, chubby girl named Pat Copeland. 
And because I too was a short, chubby girl, I hated her. 
Right in the middle of the song, the part where we were 
"reeling in" all of the people for Jesus, Pat, who was stand- 
ing directly across from me, collapsed on the floor. Mrs. 
Geraldine Chapman, our teacher, ran to Pat screaming to 
our principal and her husband Sheldon Chapman, "O 
Lord! Help me Sheldon! She's swallowing her tongue!" I 
was gripped with time-freezing fear. 

Before this crisis, I had never witnessed anything 
remotely exciting. Except Jimmy. Jimmy was a mentally 
challenged adult who went to our church. The church we 
attended had unofficial "assigned" seats. The Spears 
family sat on the right side of the church on the third pew; 
the White's sat on the left side, fourth pew. This was 
mainly because Mrs. White liked to watch how badly the 
Spears children would act so she could brag about her 
superior mothering abilities to her family. Where you sat 
said a lot about how spiritual your family was; too far up 
and you were pious, too far back and you were in need of a 
home visit from the preacher. My family sat on the left 
side and the sixth and seventh pews, somewhere in the 
middle. We did not sit together because my father did not 
want to have to keep looking to his left to see what we were 
doing so he sat my brothers and me in front of him. It also 
made it easier for him to thump us on our ear if we misbe- 
haved, and you could always count on at least one person 
being thumped every Sunday. 



Calliope 



59 



My father was very rigid in his seating habits, 
which explained why he would not move when Jimmy 
started coming to our church. I had never seen a crazy 
person before, but I had heard of them. On our way to 
church every Sunday, we would pass an old, two-story 
home that looked as if it had been built before the civil 
war. It was easy to see that it had once been beautiful, 
but it had been neglected for many years and was in need 
of repair. My father would tell us that there was a crazy 
woman that the family had kept locked in the attic for 
many years. He told us that when he was a boy she had 
escaped from the attic and chased him and his friends 
with a knife all over the yard. I do not know if this story 
was true or not, my father was an Irishman who loved to 
tell outrageous stories, but because of this image, I had a 
paralyzing fear of crazy people. 

I was not sure if Jimmy was crazy, or challenged, 
so I kept as far away from him as I could, but because of 
our "assigned" seats, I sat directly across from him in 
church. Jimmy's behavior during church was a constant 
source of glee for my brothers, who liked to witness dis- 
turbing events. Jimmy would pick his nose — there was 
nothing unusual about that — but he never carried a 
tissue, nor did his mother. I often wondered why she 
never scolded him for such uncouth behavior, but now I 
am convinced she was drunk most of the time. She sat 
with her eyes half-closed, and a thin-lipped smile fixed to 
her face throughout the service. Her expression never 
changed. If the preacher condemned us all to an after life 
of fire and brimstone, Jimmy's mother never frowned. She 
sat perfectly still, apparently reveling in her drunken 
stupor. Who could blame her after observing Jimmy's 
antics? After capturing his trophy, Jimmy would inspect it 
and then attempt to flick it as if he were participating in 
the "Booger- Flicking Olympics." I would experience the 
same paralyzing fear in church as I did that day when Pat 
Copeland collapsed. I was afraid of becoming part of the 
story. 

One Sunday, after a particularly difficult struggle 
between Jimmy and one of his prizes, my brother asked, 
"What is that on your shoulder?" Tim, the most evil of all 
brothers, pointed to a small glob on my shoulder; I stared 
at the offending mark and knew that I had been an unwill- 
ing participant in Jimmy's sick sport. I was forever linked 
to Jimmy. My brothers convinced me that I was destined 
to become Jimmy's wife. It was a way of being marked, 
sort of like Cupid's arrow. I realize now that it was too 
easy. My brother must have put something on my shoul- 



60 



der (I do not want to know what), but there is no way a 
booger flew across the aisle and landed on my shoulder. 

Seeing someone swallow their tongue was a much 
bigger deal than watching Jimmy's gross antics. I tried to 
see into Pat's mouth, but I was at the feet end of her 
seizure. Was it possible to swallow your tongue? I was 
sure it was an exaggeration. 

Even though I was frightened at what was happen- 
ing, I became completely distracted by something that took 
place at the opposite end of Pat's mouth. For me, this is 
where the memory becomes so unforgettable. Geraldine, 
the aforementioned big-haired teacher, rushed to Pat's feet 
and screamed, "Sheldon, pull her legs up so she doesn't 
swallow her tongue!" The principal pulled Pat's pudgy, 
patent leather clad feet up and showed, to my horror, Pat's 
pink underwear. I was mortified to see her chubby thighs 
in the air, exposed for everyone to see. My face grew hot 
and I felt physically ill. I was sure that Pat knew the entire 
second grade class was examining her underwear, and it 
was distracting her from keeping her tongue in place. I 
rushed, without thinking, to pull down her skirt, but they 
pushed me away before I could successfully cover her up. 

Of course, Pat did not swallow her tongue, but I 
think that would have been a more favorable outcome. I 
know I would have rather swallowed my tongue than have 
everyone see my pink underwear. At least they would have 
had something else to talk about, "Poor Alicia. Can you 
believe she swallowed her tongue?" " She was such a nice 
girl." As opposed to "Did you get a look at those under- 
wear? How about those fat legs?" From that day on, I 
lived in mortal fear of collapsing and showing everyone my 
chubby legs and underwear, and I hated Pat for exposing 
me this kind of humiliation was possible. 

Every few months, I was forced to face this fear of 
exposure. The principal of our school felt that Fridays 
should be spent out of the classroom. That would have 
been great if his field trips had held any appeal to the 
student body. We would ramble up to Burger King in our 
huge yellow bus and all of us would get out for 
milkshakes. I am sure we were hated by the employees. I 
would often find a piece of plastic or paper in my shake. 
One time, I found the leg of a cockroach, long and hairy, in 
the bottom of my chocolate milkshake. The next time I 
abstained from any sort of treat, which was, I am sure, the 
desired effect. On another field trip, we went to a man's 



Calliope 



61 



house, deep in the woods. The attraction was a small 
monkey the man kept in a cage in his back yard. Mr. 
Chapman did not teach us anything about the life or 
habits of monkeys. We just stood there drinking our 
milkshakes while the monkey sat on his ass in the corner. 

Mr. Sheldon Chapman was an unusual man, and I 
am convinced he was a closet sadomasochist. On days 
when we did not go to Burger King or see monkeys, we had 
field day. I would have slurped up a thousand roach-filled 
milkshakes to avoid field day. Field day was a day of 
random torture, but the most feared torture device for me 
was the Big Yellow Ball. Sadistic Sheldon would drag out 
this huge yellow ball and expect us to run as fast as we 
could, in our uniformed skirts, and then attempt to jump 
on top of this ball. The yellow ball may as well have been 
the sun. It was twice as tall as the second grader that 
would attempt to conquer it, and it would take five pairs of 
arms to reach around its circumference. Few could ac- 
complish the feat of springing to the top of this ball, and 
certainly not a forty-eight inch tall second grader, but you 
were guaranteed to show your underwear and the chubby 
legs your skirt attempted to cover. I remember the terror I 
felt, while sitting in class, when I would hear that ball 
come bouncing out of the storage room: Bong! Bong! 
Bong! I would immediately begin to plot my escape. I was 
not a sophisticated child, so a bomb threat was beyond my 
game plan. I generally relied on the old stomachache / 
nauseous feeling, but my teachers stopped falling for that 
because I often wanted to go home, so they stopped believ- 
ing my complaints. Mrs. Geraldine would announce to the 
class that it was field day and we should pick up our books 
and get ready to go outside. I would reluctantly stand-up, 
while those around me cheered and excitedly pushed their 
chairs under their desks. My eyes would meet Pat, who 
sat across the room from me, and I would recognize the 
trepidation I felt in her eyes. We both knew field day was 
not fun for fat girls, and I hated her for knowing how I felt. 

Once outside, I would stand in line behind the 
others who could not wait their turn. They would ask to 
"cut' and of course I was happy to accommodate. If I put it 
off, maybe something would happen to get me out of this 
situation. Maybe it would begin to lightning, or maybe 
someone would have pointy tennis shoes and the ball 
would collapse like a popped balloon. While I was in line, I 
would try to remember what underwear I had worn that 



62 



day. Was it the cute panties with the pink ribbons? Or 
was it the yellow panties with the turtle? I looked at Pat 
and wondered what she had to be afraid of; she had al- 
ready been initiated into the hall of shameful underwear 
showers. Pat looked at me as if to say, "Now it is your turn 
to be shamed. You have dodged it long enough." 

It was at times like this that I longed to be Jimmy; 
afraid of nothing. His most private moments were open to 
the public. He was never afraid of exposure, or what 
someone else thought. He was blissfully unaware of the 
eyes cutting critically in his direction. His life must be 
Utopia, crazy or not, he was free. Free to pick his nose, 
free to have a hairdo that was not quite right, free to have 
fat thighs. What a lucky guy. 

But I was not that free. The ball awaits my failure. 
I refused to go down that easy though. There were still six 
people ahead of me. I had time to think. I wondered what 
Nancy Drew would do. Bess would somehow create a 
distraction and then Nancy would jump into the car with 
Ned Nickerson and disappear, her strawberry-blonde hair 
blowing in the wind. But then I thought, "Nancy Drew 
would never be in this shameful situation." She would 
run, her thin thighs never touching one another, her 
panties not even a thought, and jump on top the ball to the 
cheers of everyone. I looked around for an escape route, 
but I could find no means of deliverance. As the line grew 
shorter and the ball came closer, I knew I would find some 
way to avoid this humiliation. No one had identified me 
with Pat; I was not called "fatty, fatty two by four" like Pat. 
I had avoided the exposure by playing it safe, lurking in 
the shadows and never calling attention to myself. I 
thought this day would be no different. 

I would like to say that like the "crafty Odysseus" I 
found a way out of the line. Or even better, that I ran as 
hard as I could, my short, stubby legs pumping like pis- 
tons, and I jumped on top of the ball, never revealing my 
chubby thighs or pink underwear. 

But that is not what happened. My time up, I 
walked like a prisoner to her execution. The much-hated 
Mr. Chapman, wearing a knit cap and a whistle around his 
neck, signaled me to move up in line and start running. I 
could feel my heart beating in my ears. It was much like 
the feeling I had when I saw Pat's legs in the air. I began 
to run, knowing that it was hopeless. I never made it to 
the ball. I tripped on my shoelace and fell long before I got 



Calliope 



63 



to the mountaintop. I jumped up as quickly as I could, 
unsure of what had been exposed during my fall. Mr. 
Chapman was already blowing his whistle for the next 
runner. The world had not imploded. There were no large 
groups of kids standing around, pointing and laughing. 
My heart was still beating. I looked around and saw Pat 
Copeland looking at me. She had a small smile on her 
pudgy face. 



64 



I'm in Love With a Girl Who Smokes Ciga- 
rettes Like She Owns the World and Isn't 
Afraid of the Bomb 

Kevin Daiss 

Quake, 

Shuddershoulder quickly down the avenue 
As you step gingerly over cracks and leaves 
Fallen to the ground- 
Cast aside cast aways from us. 
Breathe with a pause in mid-thought 
(cigarette dangling from your fingers like a rose) 
And close your eyes to relish the indistinct blur of motion 
Put in front of you by the birds lazily sewing patterns in 
the clouds. 

Before today you were always reflective, 
But this morning in the mirror you decided to be a light- 
house 

For anyone looking lost or anyone dodging dark. 
And, 

O what a light you are! 

Cast your net of goldenrod imitative daytime 
Over the sky and 
Sing! 

Sing for the night clouds you illuminate, 
And sing for the drunken fishermen you humiliate. 
Praise the highest power for your 
Talent. 

You do not dream so easily as me, 
You are never really asleep. 
Blending in with daytime at noon 
You're still vigilant- 
Though naive and ambivalent. 

So step cautiously still down your dusk-darkened road 
Until the neighbors all stare and point their fingers 
At the fucking freak with a light on her face 
And a cigarette in her hand. 
Dance circular in the gutter 
With hand pointed straight up, 
Straight up, 
Straight up at the stars 
Your best friends 

And call out the moon as your enemy. 
Waltz to the end of your block and light another cigarette; 



Calliope 



65 



Light it for the future, 
For the kids and the 
Colors in their eyes. 
You 11 be bright. 
Beautiful. 
Blinding. 



I Can Give You the Gift of the Moon's Shine 

Kevin Daiss 



I've been in the city bottlenecking 

And breathing 

Slower than the cruisers that cruise their cars at night. 

I play records at the lowest RPM 

So the words come out 

Without sounding uptight. 

I hide out 

In the dive down 

Stairways 

Up to heaven, 

Come down Lord, 

Carry me home. 

The Bible Belt 

Gets looser on my hips 

As I kiss 

Die cast aluminum lips. 

I spill the salt from my teeth 

Into the street 

And there's a man 

Who will lick it from my shoes. 

He asks for the time 

But I just hand him the MoonShine. 

I tell him, "Drink this my friend 

And let the stars in your eyes live. 

Let them sparkle with the city's tower lights." 



66 



Paper Dolls 

Brandi Kincaid 

You might not know it by looking at me but I come 
from a family of nomads. My mother, the leader of our 
tribe, has packed and unpacked us from one city to an- 
other for as long as I can remember. We've moved for 
business, and for pleasure, and sometimes I think we just 
did it to move our bodies, to make sure our feet didn't get 
too comfortable. When you are raising two young girls on 
what my mother used to call "twenty-five dollars and love," 
you learn to entertain yourselves creatively. Surprisingly 
enough, travel can be very cheap. 

Mind you, when I say cheap, I also have to point 
out that this was about the time that Motel 6 was keeping 
the light on for people all across the great states, and 
almost every restaurant you found let kids eat for free. We 
collected little plastic toys from diners all across America 
to add to our ever-growing piles of junk. But cheap meals 
and plastic toys were not the more enticing part of a car 
trip. For a little girl with traveling in her blood, it was 
always about change. The thought of the inside of the car 
excited my otherwise stable being into a frenzy of prepara- 
tion. 

The year we decided to travel cross-country, my 
family owned a faded Ford Thunderbird with a torn red 
interior. It had a musty smell that can come from two 
children and a dog. I memorized the inside of the car that 
year. I knew every tear in the fabric, every pocket made by 
holes; I had hiding places long before we left. I made 
mental maps of how much stuff I could cram into any 
given space, and where, after I had shoved every book and 
Barbie that I owned into those spaces, I would sit. Packing 
was almost as exciting as being somewhere new. My 
sister, younger and less experienced, always wanted to sit 
up front. I assume this made her feel important or more in 
charge to sit closer to my mother. I, older and much wiser, 
knew better. I knew that packing was only fun if you had 
somewhere to put it. I knew that the backseat was like 
getting an entirely new room. 

With my new room on the horizon, I planned: books 
on the seat, Barbies on the floor, tape player on my lap. 
My father had to work this year so my sister got her wish 
for the front seat and I was allowed to confiscate the back. 



Calliope 67 

"He's simply to busy," my mother would explain, "Well call 
him from the road, you'll see, it will be like he's with us." 
She smiled at my sister to make it all make sense and I 
caught her eyes as a tinge of what I now consider to be fear 
entered her voice. Virginia to New Mexico was where we 
were headed - four days there and four days back. 

On a tight budget, we never left the house unpre- 
pared. My mother was careful to make sure we had 
snacks, drinks, and food for the lunches we ate either 
while riding, or pulled off alongside the highway. My 
mother, always frugal, packed food for meals inside of an 
old cooler with a stained white plastic interior that made it 
look dirty when actually clean. It had a blue lid that 
carried teeth marks from every childhood dog I could 
remember. There was lunchmeat, mayonnaise, bread, and 
pickles; all I ever remember eating while moving. Attached 
to the side of the cooler was a cookie cutter in the shape of 
a circle. When the temptations of the roadside McDonalds 
was too great for too little girls to bear, my mother made us 
magic food. In seconds she could take a square turkey 
sandwich and make moons, both half and full. That was 
the year, if memory serves, that my sister, queen of the 
food fetish, decided that cheese sandwiches were all she 
wanted for lunch. Riding in the car meal after meal, I 
finally realized that is the moon really was made of cheese, 
the man that lived there must have been American. 

We left Virginia at six o'clock in the morning on the 
hottest day I can remember. I have often thought, since 
first recalling that day, that it must have been impossible 
to be that hot that early in the morning, but that's how it 
lives in my memory, and I never argue with memory. Drug 
from our beds, my sister and I grabbed the few remaining 
toys we had kept out the night before and slumped into 
our positions in the already packed car. To be more 
specific, while my sister slumped, I climbed. It is an artful 
thing to be able to climb so gracefully over the mountain of 
junk that I had so carefully placed into position the night 
before. Weaving myself into place among toys, I strapped 
myself in and fell quickly to sleep. I opened my eyes 
periodically when I felt the car stop, usually so that my 
mother could make a phone call, though I never saw her 
lips move at the phone. She always just returned to the 
car and began driving again. She could drive for eight 
hours straight without needing rest. 

I woke up to the sound of rustling plastic that could 



68 



only mean my sister was into the snack bag already. I 
found her, mesmerized by cheese puffs, staring at the cows 
that were grazing in the rural Virginia pasture we were 
passing. I watched one cheese puff after another mechani- 
cally being put in her mouth, one hardly chewed before 
another was already on its way. "Slow down," my mother 
would remind her, cautious of little kid's stomachs on a 
road that was nowhere near ending. 

I took out an apple, handed my mom a book on 
tape, and asked her to turn it up. "Make it loud," I said, 
ready for the voices of people outside the family fill my 
head. I brought three stacks of books on tape that year, 
just enough to go an entire day without repeating one. 
Whenever I am reading now, I can still, when the room is 
very quiet, hear that "ding" reminding me to turn the page. 
I always instinctively jump to flip it over; afraid 111 miss 
something if I waste time. 

Now for as much as my family likes to move, we like 
to make things harder than they ever need to be. My poor 
mother had been driving for about six hours when the 
traffic began to slow somewhere near Georgia. My sister 
and I, being curious young girls, wiggled half our bodies 
out the windows until we could see what was up ahead. 
Cars were filing off left and right, directed by a policeman 
with a staunch appearance and small red flag. My mother 
calmed her very scared and interested little girls by ex- 
plaining that the nice policeman wanted only to say hello 
and look at all the fabulous toys we had brought. As a six- 
year-old, I bought it. Looking back I realize that "say hello 
meant search for drugs. 

When the police officer got to our car he asked us 
to pull to the right. I was confused by the direction, sure 
that he would be so impressed by the haircuts I had so 
lovingly given to my now bald Barbies, that he would tell 
us to follow the line of cars continuing down the road. My 
mother, trying desperately not to panic, was ushered away 
from the car. My sister and I escorted to another area, and 
the car searched, piece-by-piece. I was astonished by 
their lack of grace. How dare they mess up my well- 
organized system of junk! How dare they mix up the order 
I had meticulously arranged my books in! I felt an urge 
inside of me to scream out, to inform them of their grave 
mistake in placing Barbie next to Ken (they were fighting), 
and confusing my audio books with my music tapes. I 
said nothing. I saw the frustration in my mother's eyes as 



Calliope 



69 



they left all our belongings laid out on the ground and left 
for another car. Again, piece-by-piece, everything was put 
back into the car. I never achieved the grand display I 
once had, and my back seat room never did feel quite as 
comfortable. In the end, after the heat from the sun and 
having to put back together our mess, it felt nice to be 
inside the car again. 

Just as we all took a deep breath, pausing to feel 
the relief of air conditioning and the rumble of a moving 
car, my sister looked up at my mother with tears in her 
eyes and threw up a bag and a half worth of cheese puffs 
all over her pillow. The heat from our stop had upset her 
tiny stomach, causing the over-processed food to revisit 
us. We pulled over again, only miles from where we had 
just been searched; just been made to stand in the hot sun 
while men of the law vigorously rummaged through our 
things. I guess the stop makes sense though, when you 
think about it. What is more suspicious in the field of 
drug trafficking than a young mother and her two daugh- 
ters, one covered in orange cheese dust, and another 
surrounded by thin, plastic doll hair that she does not 
understand will grow back. 

My mother, who has always seemed to me to be 
unshakable, took the pillow out of the car and peeled away 
the carrot colored case only to reveal a well-saturated 
pillow that would be, for the rest of the trip, out of service. 
She crammed the pillow in between two suitcases in the 
trunk and got back into the car. The smell of the incident 
had started to subside some b then, not that it really 
mattered. When you are around small children a great 
deal of the time, you become more difficult to decide 
whether it's the smell of secondhand lunch, or an elemen- 
tary school hallway that you are smelling; it is difficult to 
remember which smell came first. 

We spent the first night in a motel just inside 
Georgia, leaving just early enough to partake in the motel's 
stale continental breakfast, swap our cheese stained pillow 
for one of theirs, and for my mother to make another string 
of calls that never called upon her to speak. We somehow 
managed to travel most of the next two days without 
incident. One state blurred into the next as we traveled 
west, eager to reach New Mexico, to see my mother's 
parents, and finally return home. The luster of my new 
backseat room had worn off somewhere between Missis- 
sippi and Texas, and as I looked out over the great expanse 



70 



of dirt beyond the car; I began to long for the home I had 
been so eager to leave behind. In the tight backseat I 
began to forget what it was about my Barbie bungalow that 
had enthralled me in the beginning. I wanted out of the 
car and out of this state of dirt. I wanted my home. 

It wasn't until we were a good fifty miles away from 
our third motel when I realized I had left my Ken doll 
tanning by the side of the tub, catching rays from the 
fluorescent bulb above. Horrified that my Barbie would be 
alone, I cried until we reached a small town with two 
churches and a gas station/ general store. My mother, 
annoyed more by mine and Barbie's dependence on the 
Ken doll than the crying, finally consented to giving me a 
few dollars to purchase another. I walked into the store 
and silently filtered through one aisle after another, 
searching for something that might work as a mate for my 
doll. I ended up settling for Juan, a large, Latin doll with 
beautiful traditional clothing, and the head the size of 
Barbie's body. They were an odd couple to say the least; I 
was forced to keep them in counseling for the rest of the 
trip. "She'd be fine on her own, you know," my mother 
would say. It wasn't that I didn't believe her; I just wasn't 
ready to change Barbie's life around when she had so 
recently been shocked by our change in scenery. 

We reached New Mexico just as my sister was 
beginning to forget the words to all her favorite songs. This 
is a great thing for a five year old, because when you are 
five and you forget the words to a song, you don't stop 
singing, you simply stop singing the words you don't know. 
No one, even a six year old can hear "John Jacob, 
Jingleheimer-Schmidt" fifteen times in a row, especially 
when its only identifying lyric is "na na na na na na na," a 
line traditionally meant to lead into another verse, a verse 
my sister had forgotten back in Alabama. 

Pulling up to my grandmother's house, my mother 
excused herself to use the phone while I unloaded my 
sister from the seat where she had somehow stuck herself 
to the cushion with a combination of gum and ribbon that 
had, at one point, been in her hair. My grandmother took 
us inside and we sat surrounded by shelves full of trinkets 
and mementos, all of which made her smile as she walked 
past them to the kitchen. As expected, she brought us 
juice and cookies, the expensive kind that are dusted with 
sugar and stored in a tin covered in pictures of faraway 
places. She offered to read a story as grandfather talked to 



Calliope 7 1 

our mother outside where we were not aloud to go. I had 
better plans than story hour, and I walked though the 
kitchen, past the half bathroom, and into her bedroom. 
There in her closets were dresses for big girls fashioned 
like the ones my Barbie wore. Her dresses, hats, and 
jewelry kept me fascinated and I hardly noticed my mother 
crying outside. "Stress," my grandmother explained. "All 
that driving wears a girl out," she lied. 

The next morning I woke up excited about the day 
ahead, all the time to be spent with my grandparents. All 
night I had dreamed about mud pies, dress up, and story 
hour. When I got down the stairs though, our bags had 
been packed up and were resting by the door. My mother 
was whispering in the next room, and my grandmother did 
not have the stove on. I was befuddled. If the stove wasn't 
on, how would she make me Flintstone Pancakes? And 
why, after all the time I had taken setting up my even 
newer room upstairs, had all my things been packed away 
again? I crept into the kitchen and pulled at my mother's 
side. "It's time to go," was all she said in a fake, cheery 
voice that must have convinced me at the time, because I 
went upstairs and woke up my little sister. I was sure that 
there was more adventure waiting ahead. 

As we packed the car, I noticed we had one more 
suitcase than when we had left Virginia. My toys had also 
been placed in the trunk, leaving a large space in the 
backseat that I hadn't made myself. I immediately realized 
my mother must have been thinking ahead about a beauty 
shop for those Barbies I had been working on, and I went 
back in the house to thank her. Once there she explained 
that my grandmother was coming home with us. "Just for 
a little while," she said. Confused, but not upset, I climbed 
into the car, not needing to wiggle into the now sparse 
space. 

The days that followed were full of laughter and 
stories. My grandmother, the best roommate I may every 
have, showered me with tales of love and success, played 
cards for hours, and braided my hair three different ways 
all displayed on my head at once. My grandmother always 
knew how to make me beautiful. I was so captivated in the 
excitement of the ride that I almost did not notice when we 
pulled into our driveway. With stiff legs, I climbed out of 
the car and stretched my way up to the front door. As my 
mother unlocked it I noticed something was missing. The 
chair, where my father sat and read, was gone. His glasses 



72 



that always sat on the table next to the television were 
gone too. The only thing left on the table was the message 
machine, blinking a bright red twenty-one, a number I had 
never seen flash before. Sensing panic and deep breaths 
coming from my mother, I ran through each room. If it 
was a robbery, I thought, he probably went for my room 
first. Thank god I took my dolls with me. But nothing was 
gone from my room. My sister's was just as she had left it, 
and the guest room even had the two paper people I had 
made and left the week before lying on the bed. 

When I reached my parents room my mother had 
already caught up with me. She walked into the half 
empty room and looked around before I could push past 
her myself. A piece of paper on the dresser made her cry, 
and I hugged tightly to her legs. I looked over into the 
closet my parents shared and noticed an empty space 
where my father's shoes had been. It was that very mo- 
ment that I knew I was a nomad; it was in my blood. 

It's been years now since that trip across country, 
and I still think about my backseat room and the stinky 
orange pillow. I wonder if someone else got that pillow, 
and a very disturbed part of me wishes they did. I do not 
like to drive anymore, and my nomadic ways have filtered 
into other areas of my life. I'm amazed by how much, and 
yet how little, I can recall about those days, when I 
thought moving had no consequence and travel was a 
game designed to keep me entertained. I can remember in 
detail how the policeman looked that pulled us over, the 
bedspread designs in hotels, and the voices from the books 
we listened to. Ironically, I cannot remember much about 
my father. He lives in my memory as an excuse; my 
mother's excuse. The only part of him that I am sure 
about is the space left on the closet carpet where his shoes 
had been. I often wonder if he had to move, if the possibil- 
ity of a new room was simply too great to pass up. 



Calliope 73 

Snake Oil 

Karen Harrell 

Southern Women smell like department stores. 

The foundations and oils, 

Perfumes that aren't cheap, but smell that way, 

The patently medical remedies for the disastrous ravages 

of age and time. 

Forgoing the sweet magnolia and mists of bourbon, 

These regal women search for the empty quick-fix. 

The walk into the carnival of cubes, 

Straining to hear the soft-spoken barkers of today, pushing 

their wares. 

Every barker looks the same: 

Over-made face, helmet hair, glazed eyes that dart from 

one mart to another. 

They are robotic in their movements, 

Feet turn into rotors, zeroing in on a lone, genteel lady 

looking at lipstick. 

"Oh no, no, wrong shade," the litany begins. 

Age-defying, wrinkle-reducing, and Alpha-Hydroxy have 

replaced 

vapors, eye strain, and fainting couches. 

The perfect red can moisturize and erase the pains of living 

and dying. 

Next come the peeling, mud masks, and detoxifying toners. 

No self-preserving Scarlett needs to rely on lavender oil 

and rose water. 

Firming lotion negates hard farm work. 

The good, strong equatorial sun is shunned for bronzers 

and potions. 

By reaching perfumes and notions, the barker has lost the 

glassy eyes. 

Her peepers twinkle with delight at tangible commission, 

that dollar for degradation. 

The shadow of the juniper rose has been erased and 

transplanted, 

Now the carnation, bland and generic, reigns supreme. 



74 



Fat Boy 

Judy McDaniel 



They always chose a table near the rear wall of the 
pleasant neighborhood restaurant, 

situated out of the mainstream comings and goings of a bus- 
tling dinner crowd. Pete Parson liked to treat his family to a 
nice dinner once a month or so, although his wife, Martha, 
thought it a waste of money, preferring her own cooking to 
restaurant fare. Ralph didn't care one way or another as long 
as he had plenty to eat and his chocolate milk to drink. The 
rich smells of southern country cooking threatened to engulf 
the family each time the kitchen doors swung open, and he 
retreated into the world of food. Ralph Parsons was thirteen 
years old, and morbidly obese. He walked with difficulty, 
pausing often to catch his breath. Eating was a different story; 
Ralph could put away all of the food within his immediate 
grasp with hardly a pause. That's exactly what he had done 
until he realized the others at the table had finished and 
were waiting for him. 

"All set?" Pete asked, rising from his chair. His mother, 
Jane Parsons (whom they all called Nana), pushed back her 
chair, and began plucking at purse and sweater in that pe- 
culiar manner of women as they prepare to relocate them- 
selves. Martha had ordered another chocolate milk for Ralph 
and was waiting for him to finish it. 

"You all go on out," she said. "We're right behind you. 
Finish your milk, Ralph, and let's go." 

As Nana followed Pete to the cashier's stand, Ralph 
began the tedious business of getting up from his chair. 
Martha helped the boy to his feet, and the pair began their 
cumbrous way across the dining room, Ralph using his 
mother's arm to maintain his balance. Because he was so 
fat, he gave the appearance of being sloppy. In truth, the boy 
wore pretty nice clothes; his mother saw to that. The prob- 
lem was that his shirts always looked two sizes too small, 
they way they stretched across his stomach. His shorts were 
the same loose-fitting style that the other guys wore, but on 
him, they looked ridiculous. Martha was a large woman, 
noticeably overweight herself, so it was not surprising that 
they became an embarrassing center of attention. Conversa- 
tion ceased at nearby tables; eyes first stared, then averted. 

An older woman observed the boy with pity, comment- 



Calliope 



75 



ing to her husband, "Look at that poor child, Bill. He has 

such trouble walking." 

Bill turned slightly in his chair, watched Ralph and his mother 

for a moment, and replied, 

"He does seem miserable, but look at his mother. I'd say 

they've got a real weight crisis going on." 

"You're probably right," said his wife, but I feel sorry 
for the boy. Surely, something 

could be done for him." They returned to their dinner and 
the conversation in which they had been involved. 

Martha was very much aware of the looks and com- 
ments directed their way. "I told your father we should eat at 
home," she grumbled. Ralph sighed. Truth be known, he'd 
rather eat at home, too, rather than undergo the painful scru- 
tiny that dining out entailed. Arriving at the front door of the 
restaurant, they found that Pete had pulled the car up to 
meet them, a kindness on his part. None of the family spoke 
during the short drive home, although Pete obviously had 
something on his mind. They dropped Nana off at her house, 
just a couple of streets over from the Parson home. 

"Ill see you tomorrow, Ralph," Nana said as she got 
out of the car. "You all have a nice evening, and thanks for 
dinner, Pete." 

Later, when Pete and Martha were alone in their bed- 
room, he asked her, "Can't you do anything about Ralph and 
the way he eats? He won't live to see eighteen the way he's 
going." 

"So why is it my fault?" demanded Martha, labori- 
ously getting into bed. "I don't see you getting on to him 
about his eating habits." 

"What is it you always say - the family weight prob- 
lem?" asked Pete sarcastically. "Well, you're right. Your fam- 
ily does have a problem and you're passing it on to our son." 

Martha gave her husband a sullen look, saying, "I 
don't want to talk about it. Ralph has a problem, but hell 
grow out of it. He's OK." End of conversation, as far as she 
was concerned. 

Pete sighed, thinking that their conversations always 
wound up like this when he wanted to talk about Ralph. The 
boy needed some kind of help and Pete was at a loss as to 
what should be done. He knew he never was much of a dis- 
ciplinarian; Martha was pretty much in charge. And why not? 
He worked hard all day; it wasn't up to him to solve all of the 
family problems, was it? 

Next morning, Pete helped Ralph get his books and 



76 



stuff into the car, waited while his son got in, and headed off 
toward the school. Both enjoyed this brief time together each 
morning, although each was aware that Pete drove Ralph to 
school because the boy could not climb onto the 
school bus. Man, Pete sometimes thought. We moved into this 
neighborhood because of the schools and the poor guy can't 
even ride the bus with the other kids. He's got to be miserable.. 
Pete's thoughts were cut short as they pulled up to the school 
drive. 

"See you later, buddy," said his dad. "You planning 
on going to Nana's house after school?" 

"Sure, Dad. Shell pick me up. 111 see you." And Ralph 
began his day at school. Nana did, in fact, pick up Ralph 
most days, and they had a special visit at her house. She 
worried about her grandson. That Martha, she thought, set a 
poor example for Ralph, constantly cooking and baking and 
loading them all up with rich foods and sodas. Thank good- 
ness, none of it stuck to Pete! At her house, Ralph ate healthy 
snacks, and she was able to distract him from wanting more 
to eat by engaging him in a new video game or a book she 
had bought for him. Still, she was growing more anxious 
about him. Nana had studiously avoided a confrontation with 
her daughter-in-law. Martha was as defensive as a mama 
bear when it came to protecting her offspring. Seeing Pete 
drive by with Ralph on the way to school, Nana made up her 
mind - enough is enough, she decided. I've got to intervene. 

Going to his grandmother's house was the highlight 
of Ralph's day, considering that school was becoming more 
and more uncomfortable for him. He experienced physical 
pain at times, like when he had to pick up his books that 
another boy had "inadvertently" knocked out of his arms. 
Most of his pain was psychological, though. He was consid- 
ered a freak by many of the middle schoolers, some of whom 
had been his friends in elementary school. Hardly a day 
passed without an encounter with one or two boys as they 
all converged on their lockers between classes. Someone al- 
ways seemed to bump into him, sometimes hard enough to 
almost throw him off balance, sometimes just enough to make 
him drop something, and they would ridicule his attempt to 
pick up the fallen objects. 

"Hey Ralph, going out for football this semester?" one 
would ask. 



Calliope 77 

"Yeah," said another. "You can be the ball." 
Ralph usually said nothing; he just wanted them to 
go away. Occasionally, they got to him, and he came back 
with "Leave me alone. Get out of my face and leave me alone." 
Ralph was usually pretty docile, a good target for taunting, 
so when he did retaliate, the others generally left 
him alone. In class, he had use the desk provided for stu- 
dents with disabilities because he was too fat to sit in the 
conventional desk chairs. A bright boy, Ralph appeared dull 
and slow because he 

seldom spoke up in any of his classes. If only he could be 
invisible, he often thought. If only he didn't 

have to go to school at all. 

The worst part of Ralph's day was lunchtime. His 
mother packed his lunch because he was unable to squeeze 
through the lunch line. By the time he made his way to the 
cafeteria, most everyone else was seated, and the usual 
clamor of conversation and utensils was well under way. A 
few of the boys and girls teased him as he searched for an 
empty table, making fun of his unusually large lunch bag. 

"What's in the bag, Ralph?" was often the question, 
asked in a mocking tone of voice. 

"Bet you've got enough stuff in there for all of us," 
was another common jibe. 

Once settled at a table, Ralph spread out his lunch. 
And what a lunch it was! It was apparent that Martha didn't 
want her Ralph to go hungry, judging from the number of 
generous-sized sandwiches, chips, and cookies, plus a quart 
of chocolate milk. While he ate, Ralph was able to zone out of 
his surroundings and the mean kids who teased him all of 
the time. He thought about going to Nana's house later; she 
always had snacks and never made fun of him. 

So went the fat boy's day, every day, Monday through 
Friday, a miserable life for a 

thirteen-year-old. So it might have continued, were it not for 
a casual remark made by the school track coach. It was 
Ralph's habit to sit on a bench during the required Physical 
Education period, and watch the other guys perform their 
track and field events. He was unable to participate, but had 
to sit there, just the same. On this particular afternoon, Coach 
Keely came over and sat down next to him. 

"Say, Ralph," asked the coach, "have you ever thought 
about walking a little on the track? 
It would give you a little exercise. I don't mean getting out 



78 



there like those guys," gesturing to a 

group running relays. "Might help with your breathing, too." 

Ralph was both stunned and apprehensive. "I don't 
think I could do that, Coach," he said. 

I can't walk very far, and besides, the guys would laugh me 
right off the track." 

Coach Keely let that comment rest for a couple of 
minutes as he and Ralph watched the activity on the field. 
"Ill tell you what, Ralph. If you can stay a little while after 
regular school 
hours, well both do a little walking. What do you say?" 

Ralph was speechless. Before he could think up a 
reason to say no, he blurted out, "OK." 

He knew Nana wouldn't mind picking him up a little later. 
As long as nobody else knew - he couldn't 

take much more ridicule, and he voiced this worry to the 
coach. Coach Keely gave him a thumbs up sign, and grinned 
as if to say, " this is our little project." 

Nana knew immediately, as Ralph eased himself into 
the car, that he was worrying over some new problem. She 
knew, too, that he would tell her about it when he was ready. 
Later, over fruit bars and milk - white, reduced fat milk, the 
story came out. 

"Nana," Ralph began. "Coach Keely wants me to walk 
with him after school. I told him OK, but that was dumb. I 
should have told him I can't do it." Clearly, the boy was both 
elated and scared. His grandmother was also elated; she 
encouraged Ralph to take Coach Keely up on his offer. She 
would pick him up a little later - no problem. She sensed 
that Martha Parsons would be the problem, that she would 
not take kindly to this unexpected change of plans. Nana 
decided that it was time to have a few words with Mama Bear 
about what might be the beginning of a new interest for Ralph. 
This was the opportunity Nana had been waiting for; now 
she had a good reason to intervene for Ralph's own good. 

Like clockwork, Martha was in the kitchen, prepar- 
ing dinner when Nana brought 

Ralph home. She had to admit the house smelled wonderful, 
the tantalizing smells of a chicken roasting in the oven and 
freshly-made brownies on the table, competing with one an- 
other for attention. 

"Staying for dinner, Jane?" asked Martha. His grand- 
mother usually dropped Ralph off at his house without com- 
ing in. 



Calliope 79 

"No, thank you, Martha. Ralph has some exciting news 
to share!" Jane replied. "Tell your mother," she said to her 
grandson. Ralph explained the coach's offer, hoping his 
mother would approve of the new venture. 

"Out of the question. You know you can't do any ex- 
tra walking," Martha said to Ralph. "You might fall down. 
How do you know that coach won't just leave you out there 
by yourself?" 

Nana indicated with a nod to Ralph that he should make 
himself scarce while she and his mother talked about the 
issue. 

"Martha," said Nana, when she finally was able to get 
a word in. "You want the best for Ralph; I know that. Have 
you really looked at him, lately? He's getting so fat, it's hard 
for him to get around. He doesn't say much, but I know the 
other kids are sometimes pretty mean to him." 

Martha was getting upset with her mother-in-law. 
What did she think she was doing, coming in here and trying 
to tell her how to raise her own son? 

"I don't know what your problem is, Jane. Ralph is 
still carrying around a lot of baby fat. 

Hell lose some of it, you'll see. I do everything in my power to 
make that boy happy, and you have no right to question 
what I do." It was obvious that Martha would not be swayed, 
even if Nana talked herself blue in the face. Fortunately, Pete 
arrived home in the midst of the argument. Once apprised of 
Coach Keely's offer, he was amazed. Leaving the two women 
to their quarrel, he sought out Ralph in order to gauge his 
son's feelings about such a major deviation from his normal 
routine. 

"What about it, Son? Is this something you really want 
to try?" 

"I want to try, Dad, but I'm scared. I want to show 
Coach Keely how glad I am that he thinks I can do this. If I 
fail, it sure won't be the first time, and everybody laughs at 
me, anyway." 

Pete winced at his son's perception of ridicule. Put- 
ting his hand on Ralph's shoulder, he said, "I'm with you on 
this, and for what's its worth, I think you can do it." He made 
up his mind that Martha would have to understand that Ralph 
was old enough and, somehow, wise enough to make this 
decision. She had to turn loose; that was her main problem. 
Pete was no psychiatrist, but he could see Martha and her 
cooking as some kind of control. Probably the way her mother 



80 



raised her, he mused. He returned to the kitchen where his 
wife and his mother seemed on the verge of an uneasy truce. 

"Martha," he told her, This afternoon walking with 
the coach is something Ralph really wants to do, and I'm 
proud of him for wanting to try. Let's support him in this." 
The conversation ended soon, with Martha grudgingly in 
agreement and Nana secretly pleased. 

"Listen, you two," Nana said. "I really am happy for 
Ralph and I 'm glad we all agree that he should take the 
coach up on his offer." That said, she was out of the door, 
and looking forward to seeing her grandson after the school 
the following day. 

Ralph was nervous the next afternoon, as he waited 
for Coach by the bench where they 

had talked the day before. He hoped nobody was 
watching, and he hoped he wouldn't fall down; he hoped 
Coach Keely hadn't been putting him on. What if he didn't 
come? Well, that would be OK, too, Ralph thought. Then he 
wouldn't have to do it after all. Ralph had barely put his 
thoughts together, when he saw the coach striding across 
the track. 

"OK, Ralph?" he asked with the grin that would be- 
come very familiar to Ralph. 

"As ready as I'll ever be, I guess," was the boy's reply. 

"Then let's do it!" Arm in arm, they began to walk. It 
was slow going, with frequent stops for Ralph to catch his 
breath. Coach didn't try to engage him in conversation; ex- 
tended walking was enough for Ralph to handle. His whole 
body strained as he struggled to put one foot in front of the 
other, the overweight body that was unused to the effort now 
demanded of it. Sweat poured off of him and he really did 
feel like he was going to fall over any minute. Coach Keely 
was well aware of Ralph's poor physical condition and the 
huge amount of fat he carried on his relatively short frame. 
He called a halt after about fifteen minutes, assuring Ralph 
they would add a few minutes and a few more yards of track 
each day. 

"You can do this, Ralph. I know you can," were the 
coach's parting words. Ralph was hurting. Everything hurt, 
even his throat rasped from practically gasping for breath. 

What have I gotten myself into, he wondered. He dried 
himself off and waited for Nana. 

What was I thinking of... I can't do this. Nana was so enthusi- 
astic he wanted to throw up. 

"What do you know, Nana," Ralph finally burst out. 



Calliope 8 1 

"What makes everybody think I can get out and walk? I can't 
even walk down the hall in time for my next class." Nana let 
him talk, saying no more until they were seated in her sunny 
kitchen. 

"Ralph, honey," Nana began. "Nobody is forcing you 
to do anything you don't want to do. Want to know what I 
think? I think you really want to prove to yourself that you 
can successfully take on this challenge, scary as it may be." 

Ralph finished his milk before he answered her. 
"You're right , Nana, all the way around. 
I do want to do it and it is scary. And you know what? I'm 
going out on that track tomorrow and the next day and the 
day after that. May I have some more milk, please?" 

Little by little, Ralph began walking for longer peri- 
ods, forcing himself to breathe evenly, 

and focus on the business of one step at a time. There were 
times when he wanted to stop, to give up, but he kept walk- 
ing. For a while, he didn't want to let his new friend and 
mentor down; soon, he realized this was for himself. His dad 
always asked him how he was doing, and Ralph knew he 
was proud. His mom still wasn't particularly thrilled, but 
Ralph figured she'd come around. 

One afternoon, Coach Keely stopped Ralph in the hall 
and said that he would be running a few minutes late for 
their afternoon walk, but that Ralph should go ahead and 
get started without him. Later, stepping out on the track 
alone, Ralph had a few minutes of panic, the old fear of fall- 
ing down washing over him. He walked for five minutes or 
so, before he saw the coach watching him from the sidelines. 

"Hey, Coach, are you coming?" Ralph called out to 
him. 

"You walk and 111 watch from here." was the reply. 

Ralph was excited when Nana came for him. "Guess 
what, Nana!" he exclaimed. "Coach tricked me today and I 
had to walk by myself, and you know what? I did it. Boy, am 
I hungry!" 

Nana allowed an extra fruit bar and, as they sat her kitchen 
table, she questioned her grandson about his new activity. 
Gently, she suggested they take a new approach to his eat- 
ing habits in an effort to boost his energy and endurance. 
She knew, even as she made the suggestion, how Martha 
would react if Ralph started turning down some of her bis- 
cuits and gravy, her fried chicken and potatoes. Her daugh- 
ter-in-law would first assume Ralph was coming down with 



82 



something, then figure that she, Nana, had put him up to 
turning away from the extra portions that he normally ate 
with relish. Well, she'd let the situation play out and see 
what happened. 

That very evening, Ralph declined second helpings 
of both his favorite potato salad and Martha's tender pot roast. 
When he failed to ask for more chocolate milk, she could 
stand it no longer. 

"Are you feeling sick, Ralph?" she asked. "You've 
hardly eaten a thing." 

"I'm fine, Mom, just cutting back a little to get in bet- 
ter shape." 

Pete had an idea that Ralph knew exactly what he 
was doing. "Give him a break, Martha. 
We both know hell eat when he wants to." 

The lunches Ralph took to school seemed to increase 
in volume, though, Martha's way 

of making sure he son got enough to eat. Ralph still came 
into the cafeteria after everyone else, found his lonely table, 
and spread out the contents of his bag, seemingly oblivious 
to the smart remarks coming from the other tables. His big 
lunch seemed overwhelming now that he was walking more 
and eating a little less at home. He knew what he had to do: 
he ate what he wanted, then walked deliberately to the bin 
labeled for surplus food, and tossed about half of his care- 
fully and lovingly 

prepared lunch into it. His actions did not go unnoticed, but 
nobody said anything as Ralph lumbered out of the cafete- 
ria. 

The word was out - Ralph Parsons was acting weird. 
A couple of the guys followed him that afternoon and hid 
behind some of the benches that lined the track. Ralph and 
Coach Keely stepped onto the track and started walking. They 
walked about half-way around, turned, and walked back to 
their starting point. 

"Good walk, Ralph," said Coach. "Tomorrow, it's one 
full lap. Think you're up for it?" 

"Yes, Sir!" Ralph responded. "HI sure try." 

Next day, a few more students showed up to watch 
Ralph Parsons walk a complete lap around the track, and 
nobody heckled or taunted him. Nobody said a word, actu- 
ally. Ralph knew they were there; they probably expected me 
to fall over before I got half-way around, he thought. He 
showed them that he could do it, didn't he? 



Calliope 



83 



He told Nana about the guys coming out to watch 
him. "How do you feel about that now, 
Ralph?" she asked. 

"I'm OK with it, Nana, as long as they don't start giv- 
ing me a hard time about it." Nana wasn't at all sure things 
were going to continue as smoothly as Ralph thought. She 
knew a thing or two about kids that age and was pretty sure 
Ralph was in for more taunting sooner or later. 

"Leave yourself some room, Ralph," she said. "And 
whatever happens, youll deal with it." And she gave him a 
big hug. 

His mother had calmed down about his new eating 
habits, although she still gave him the 

"clean your plate" bit almost every day. Pete said little, other 
than to suggest to Ralph that they go to the mall on Satur- 
day and get some stuff like good walking shoes and maybe 
some new pants, since the ones he was wearing were getting 
a little baggy. It was as though everyone, students and fam- 
ily, waited for the other shoe to fall - for Ralph to go back to 
being his usual fat, lazy self and for the kids at school to 
start in on him again. In the meantime, they humored him. 
That Saturday, before the mall trip, Pete took Ralph to the 
barbershop. While they waited their turns, Ralph noticed that 
the barbers had to stop and sweep up after every two or 
three customers. He thought they needed someone to do the 
sweeping, but that was as far as the thought went. 

Later that day, Pete asked Ralph if he wanted to go 
out and toss a football for a while. 



"Hey, Dad, where did the football come from?" Ralph 
wanted to know. 

"It's my old ball," his dad replied. I played a little foot- 
ball in high school, and for some reason, I kept this one. 
Good thing, right?" 

The following Monday, Ralph had a funny feeling when 
he got to school. It wasn't anything he could put his finger 
on, but something was going on. He found out pretty soon 
when he got to his locker. A bunch of the guys were just 
standing around. 

"Hey, Ralphie," said one of them. "You sure look funny 
out there with Coach." 

"You're too big and fat to be somebody's pet, aren't 
you, Ralphie?" from another. 

"He thinks he's going to be a big track star, I guess," 
a third chimed in. 



84 



Ralph knew he had to say something; he wasn't about 
to let them scare him off. 

"So, what's wrong with walking around on the track? 
It's better than sitting on the bench and watching you guys 
out there." He waited, hoping now that they had had their 
fun, they'd leave him alone. The bell rang... just in time, Ralph 
thought. 

"Bye, Ralphie, we'll be seeing you," was the parting 
shot, as they walked off, a couple of them mimicking Ralph's 
rolling gait. 

Sure enough, once in the cafeteria, they made fun of 
his lunch just like they used to do. One big boy, who was 
pretty much the school bully, walked past Ralph's table, and 
just happened to knock his lunch onto the floor. 

"Oh, sorry, Ralphie," he said. "Guess your mama will 
have to make you a double-sized lunch tomorrow." They all 
laughed, waiting for Ralph to manipulate his bulk to the floor 
to pick up the remains of his lunch. Instead, Ralph stood up 
and shoved the bully. 

"You knocked my lunch off the table, and you can 
just pick it up," Ralph said, wondering 
what had got into him. 

Later, Ralph would tell his family you could have heard 
a pin drop in the cafeteria. It seemed like everything was in 
slow motion. Next thing he knew, the guy's fist was in Ralph's 
face, and he fell against the table, blood running from his 
nose. One of the cafeteria workers apparently called the 
principal's office and the fight ended as quickly as it had 
begun. Both boys were escorted from the room. Still, nobody 
had spoken; they were in a state of shock. Ralph Parsons 
had taken on the school bully! 

That evening, Coach Keely dropped by the Parson 
home to check on Ralph. He told Pete, "I feel responsible for 
what happened today. Maybe I shouldn't have encouraged 
Ralph. I sure didn't see this coming." 

"We're pretty upset over the incident," Pete replied, 
"but it's not your fault. You've helped Ralph gain a little self- 
confidence, and today he felt strong enough to stand up for 
himself. Don't think I'm in favor of fighting, and I've told Ralph 
the same thing, but I think this has been coming for a long 
time." 

"Well, Mr. Parsons, I hope to see Ralph right back 
out on that track tomorrow. You can be sure 111 be there. 
Matter of fact, I think Ralph would be pretty pleased if you 



Calliope 85 

showed up, too." 

After the coach had left, Pete looked in on Martha. 
She had just about hit the ceiling when she got the call from 
school. But there she was, watching TV, now that she had 
calmed down. He went upstairs to Ralph's room, knocked on 
the half-open door as he always did, and entered the room. 
Ralph was sitting on the side of his bed, ice pack on his nose 
which, fortunately, was not broken. 

" I don't want to talk about it any more, Dad." 

"No problem, Son. I just wanted to tell you that Coach 
Keely dropped by to make sure you're OK. If it's alright with 
you, I may drop by tomorrow afternoon while you're doing 
your walk." 

"Yeah, sure, if you want to." Ralph obviously had little 
to say, so his father told him goodnight, and went back down- 
stairs. 

Ralph put the ice pack on the floor and lay back on 
his bed. Why had he done something so stupid? He looked 
around his room, a room that was surprisingly neat for a 
thirteen-year-old 

boy. He looked at his computer, the CD player, his TV on the 
bookcase. He nodded slightly - everything was in its place. 
Here, Ralph was in control. This was his haven, the one place 
where he was completely comfortable. How could he go back 
to school tomorrow? They'd be waiting for him, alright. Be- 
sides, his nose really was hurting. Ralph fell into a restless 
sleep. 

He didn't go to school the next day, nor the next. His 
parents were beside themselves, trying to convince Ralph 
that he was not doing himself any good by staying away from 
school. Martha called the office and said he was sick, after 
which she did what she had always done when her little boy 
was sick: she fed him. And Ralph ate. He ate everything she 
put in front of him. The second day 

that he stayed home, Nana came over. 

"What do you hope to accomplish, Ralph?" she asked 
sternly. 

"I just want everybody to leave me alone," was his 
sullen reply. 

That night, Ralph had a dream. It was an old dream, 
one he hadn't had in a long time. In his dream, his mom had 
left him in a video store while she shopped in the mall. He 
got tired of standing around, physically tired, and began to 
feel dizzy. He thought if he could lean against the counter for 



86 



a few minutes, he'd be OK. But one of the guys who worked 
in the store told him to get off, because he was so fat he 
might break the counter. And everybody in the store laughed 
at him. They laughed and laughed until Ralph woke up, 
sweating and dizzy. / know what I have to do, he said to him- 
self. 

The next morning, he was ready when his dad left for 
work. Pete was relieved and the two of them chatted easily 
on the ride to school, just as though nothing had happened. 
Ralph walked purposefully to his locker, got his books, and 
went to class. He spoke to nobody and nobody spoke to him 
.Fine, thought Ralph. ..you leave me alone and I'll do the same. 
Later, as he walked past the guys in the cafeteria, he heard 
the bully make a remark half under his breath. He also heard 
a couple of the others tell him to shut up and leave Ralph 
alone. Opening his lunch bag, Ralph almost laughed when 
he saw that his mom was still trying to feed away his hurt. 
Well, that didn't mean he had to eat it all. 

"Hey, Ralph, mind if I sit at your table for a minute?" 
He looked up in surprise. The voice belonged to Mary Sue, 
one of the really popular girls in school. Tongue-tied, he 
motioned for her to sit down. 

"Glad to see you back, " she said. "Those cookies look 
good; may I have one?" Ralph smiled at that, and passed her 
the bag of cookies. Mary Sue took a bite of cookie and stood 
up to leave. 

"Well, take care, you hear?" And she walked away, 
cookie bag in hand. Ralph had no time to figure out what 
had just happened because the bell rang and he had to clean 
up his lunch stuff and get to class. 

Coach Keely wasn't around after school, but Ralph 
put on his walking shoes and started 

around the track. He had to take it really slow - a couple of 
days with no exercise made a 

difference. He thought about his dream as he walked. He 
didn't want to be that fat guy any more. For 
the first time, he began to see where this walking could lead. 
More exercise, eat right. It became his mantra as he walked 
and, at first, he didn't see the guys sitting on the bench watch- 
ing him. There were three of them and Ralph was OK with 
that. More exercise, eat right, he mumbled to himself. 

Later, he told Nana what he had been thinking about. 
"I need to do this, Nana," he said. "All of a sudden I'm tired of 
looking this way. I know I've lost some weight and I've got a 
long way to go. But, you know what, Nana? I'm ready to try." 



Calliope 



87 



And he did. The afternoon track walk became a group 
activity. Much to Coach Keely's surprise, several of the boys 
began to join Ralph and to call out encouragement. "Go, 
Ralph!" became the daily greeting. The same guys who for- 
merly gave him such a hard time now passed him in the hall 
or met him at their lockers with, "Go, Ralph!" He finally per- 
suaded his mom to let him try buying his lunch at school. 
He could get to the cafeteria right along with everyone else, 
but wasn't sure if he had lost enough weight to get through 
the lunch line. It was a tight squeeze, but somebody called 
out, "Go, Ralph!" and he made it. Ralph went to his usual 
table, but didn't feel as lonely as he had before. Besides, 
there was always the chance that Mary Sue would stop by to 
say hello. 

Along with the coach, Ralph's family were his biggest 
cheerleaders. Nana and Pete could see Ralph's self-confidence 
growing day by day, and Martha was as proud of her son as 
any Mama Bear could be. She had quit urging more food on 
the boy and she let Ralph know she was on his team. Nana 
missed picking Ralph up at school once he started riding the 
bus, but he still came to her house most every afternoon. 

Getting through the lunch line became easier for 
Ralph as time passed, and as the semester neared its close, 
he could occasionally be seen in actual conversation with 
one of the boys or girls who had either taunted or snubbed 
him. He got up the nerve to walk into his classes and take a 
regular seat instead of the larger one - and nobody said a 
word. Two or three of the boys who had been his worst tor- 
mentors even thrust their fists in the air in mute tribute. 
Once he felt himself a part of the class, Ralph was more in- 
clined to speak up, and to volunteer answers, which pleased 
and surprised his teachers. He took it slowly, keeping up 
with his afternoon program. If he seemed too smart or too 
cocky, it would take only a word or two to totally shatter his 
fragile self-confidence. 

Ralph still had one more thing to do, and he intended 
to do it on the following Saturday, when he and his dad went 
to the barbershop. The two barbers and the men who fre- 
quented the shop had 



remarked on Ralph's weight loss and they had begun to kid 
him about how he'd have more girlfriends than he could 
handle, if he didn't watch out. Good man talk, Ralph thought, 
and he was proud. When Mr. Wilson picked up the broom 
and began to sweep around his chair, it was the moment 



88 



Ralph had been waiting for. 

"Say, Mr Wilson, don't you need somebody to do that 
for you?" Ralph asked the barber. 

"Yeah, Wilson," said one of the customers, "if you 
didn't spend so much time sweeping, we wouldn't have to 
spend so much time waiting." The others laughed at his joke. 

Mr. Wilson gave Ralph a long, hard look. Finally, he 
said, "Well, Ralph, sounds like you're asking for a job. How 
old are you now?" 

"Almost fourteen," replied Ralph, "and I could sweep 
up for you on Saturdays." He waited. Pete waited. 

"Well give it a try, son. You come in here Saturday 
morning, 9:00 sharp. And 111 talk to your dad here about 
what I can pay you." 

"Yes, Sir, Mr. Wilson!" Ralph was elated. He had a 
job. He had a long way to go to get himself in good shape, but 
he knew he had made the right start. He was still the fat boy 
at school, but he didn't get teased nearly as much, and even 
the teasing was different - not as mean, Ralph thought. Maybe 
he could start running a little, and maybe by next semester, 
he'd be able to take part in P.E. classes. Best of all, he had 
some friends. He had the full support of his family, and that 
had taken some doing! Ralph Parsons would never forget 
what it felt like to be so fat he could hardly walk, so fat he 
couldn't even get on the bus, or go through the lunch line. 
Now, he could concentrate on being a new guy - a better guy. 



Calliope 89 



I Am 

Erin Christian 



I weave worlds into being with threads of belief as delicate 
and beautiful as gossamer. 

I am a ringleader of a circus, with the crowds clinging to 
my words with desperation akin to that of the last drops of 
morning dew on leaves before the sun that is that is their 
working lives burns away their happiness. 

I wage wars with precision surpassing the finest generals, 
for as soon as I declare war and sound the drums of battle, 
I am known the victor. 

I am a creator, birthing entire societies of people from the 
womb of my imagination. Bringing forth people who 
inspire in others love, hatred, joy, and despair and ending 
their lives when they have served a purpose. 

I am a believer in truth and love and selflessness, but also 
in hatred and evil and vile human nature, for in order to 
have light there must also be darkness. 

From my mind, to my heart, through my fingertips, to the 
pen bleeding its life upon parchment flows life and death 
and love and longing and hope and divinity and pain and 
sadness and mirth and mischief and most of all, 
understanding. 

I am a daughter, a student, a lover, a dancer to the music 
that sounds from the Earth, I exist for the entertainment 
and emotional fulfillment of all others. 

I am, because of all things human, a writer. 



90 



Breathe 

Carmela Orsini 

Just once: 

Take a breath, now. 

Inhale... before the plunge: 

Stomach turning 

Brow sweating 

Eyes blinking 

Hands shaking 

Holding the inhale... 

Stop breathing 

Fear 

Fear of the moment awaiting; 

Exhale, exhale, 

Exhale... 

Relaxed. 

I Do. 






Calliope 9 1 



Disconnecting Houston 

Clinton J. Droste 



I awoke with the viscous air clinging to my lungs, 
the back of my throat was ablaze and my throat was 
smarting. My eyes remained closed, but somehow I was 
able to picture each breath, as I exhaled, condense to form 
small clouds of body heat that I was quickly losing. My 
hands were frozen, tightly clenched, my fists burned, and 
my nails were digging into my skin. I tried to sit up, but 
my bladder was so full that my kidneys ached. As I 
struggle to open my eyes, I could feel my eyelashes being 
ripped out by the crust that had glued them together. I 
tried to move my feet, but as I pushed them away from my 
body, I felt a lashing on my ankles. I was hog-tied. 

I had managed to open my eyes, but the darkness 
was piercing. I struggled violently, back and forth, side to 
side, but it was no use. I tried to yell, but what cam out 
was more like a grunt. My nose sensed a familiar smell, 
but it was not so familiar as to remember right away what 
it was. 

Why am I tied up, I wondered? Why is it so dark? 
How did I wake up here? Where is here? 

"Hello!" 

"Hey... Anybody?" 

My body was uncontrollable. A thousand different 
thoughts ran through my head, and then I went out, 
unconscious, unaware, into a deep sleep that cradled me 
tightly; no dreams, no tossing, no turning, only darkness. 

As I awoke for the second time, I was a little more 
receptive of my surroundings, though I had no idea how 
long I'd been asleep. The darkness still cramped the tiny 
quarters that I had been assigned, and I tried to feel 
around for anything that felt remotely familiar. Still, my 
arms and legs were bound, but now it felt more like a 
heavy weight upon my body. I could feel a strange sensa- 
tion of dampness clinging to my back and shoulders, thick 
and sticky, like molasses. The odor was stronger now, and 
I was trying to make sense of it. I was so close to identify- 
ing it, but my mind was fighting the information that was 



92 



forcing its way through my nostrils. I could taste the 
staleness of blood in my mouth, but this was of little 
concern considering the seriousness of my situation. 
"Hello?" 

"Anybody...?" 

"Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my sins 
Father, in Jesus name I pray. God...?" 

"Help me...!" 

I felt an evil spirit cloaking my numbness, my mind 
was astir, my heart was pounding, like an ancient drum 
lost in the midst and the flora of the jungle. At first, I 
though I was hearing thunder, but as the noise repeated 
itself, it became clear that I was hearing footsteps. As they 
neared, I went under again. 

This time I felt cold hands grabbing and prodding, 
lifting and sweeping my lifelessness. I felt something 
scraping my chest like a razor slicing into my armor, and 
for the first time in days, I heard someone speaking. I 
tried to make out the words, but they were melded to- 
gether, like a river, flowing over rocks, i wanted to re- 
spond, but I could not move. I saw the sun, bright and 
bold, flash and then disappear. Then I felt a pain that I 
could never forget, as though someone had their hand in 
my chest, moving and rearranging my insides like living 
room furniture. Slam, pull, push, tug, squeeze. I cried 
out, but my lips did not move. 

Now, the voices seemed to be coming from more 
than one person, they pushed through the air, twisted and 
infused. I tried reaching out to grab the effluent noise, and 
then, nothing; no footsteps, no pain, no sun. In this 
silence I could sense the rotation of the earth. I imagined 
life going on as if I hadn't missed a day. I knew the moon 
would show its full face again, and somewhere someone 
was being born. 

Suddenly, I plunged into a deep blue sea, my lungs 
filled with vascular lymph, and my weightlessness sus- 
pends my weariness. I think back to my childhood, but 
the memories are short, and encrypted; bits and pieces 
rush in, and then disappear. I see faces that I had forgot- 
ten, and I smell distinct aromas of places that I once 
visited. My body seizes and jerks forcefully and bursts 



Calliope 



93 



through the surface of the still water. I gasp strongly for 
air, and receive a huge dose to fill my lungs. 

Someone is calling my name. I recognize the voice, 
this beautiful voice, it... it's my wife! 

"Gloria... baby? I hear you. Gloria!" 

Who is she talking to? I don't recognize the other 
voices. Why doesn't she hear me? 

"I'm here. Can you hear me, Gloria?" 

Why is she crying? What have these people done to 
her? I swear 111 kill the bastards if they hurt her. Then 
Gloria leans over me and I hear... 



"Houston... wake up." 

"Oh God, Houston. I can't live without you." 
"Gloria, I'm right here. Please don't cry." 
"I'm awake, look at me! I'm fine." 



What is happening to me? Why does she not hear 
me? What kind of sadistic joke is this? 

"Houston, please. I love you." 

"Come on Mom, don't do this to yourself. We have 
to let him go. Dad can't hear you. The doctor said he 
doesn't even know we're here." 



94 



I Do 

Sophie Hayle 






Coveting the green ring 

that gives away the impermanence 

of the once gold band 

you left by the sink, 

I know better than to want 

the passing promises you 

once accepted; 

the fate you sealed with a whispered 

I do. 

Baby on the way- 

I can hear the screams to come 

that you will silence with your 

single voice 

the only one left in that house. 

I know better than to want 

the struggles that will come 

and the lines of too young and should have 

people whisper in your dark. 

Coveting your new title, 
tacked on like a misplaced notion, 
a new letter separating the 
single syllable girl you once were. 

Yes, I know better. 
Yes, I covet still. 
It's not the answer, 
It's the question. 



Calliope 



95 



Insomnia 

Erin Christian 



When the eyes burn as fierce as hot coals and throb 
woefully in their sockets. 

When the joints creak wearily and the skin pringles at each 
brush of cotton sheets as you thrash about in a battle for 
comfort. 

When the thoughts of the mind race across days past, 
remembering all that was and all that could have been, as 
the deafening sound of crickets pounds in ears that long 
for sweet silence. 

When the shadows of a darkened room dance and weave as 
spectres of the forgotten world touched by sunlight and 
yawns turn to sigh as the warmer, more welcoming world 
is longed for. 



96 



Puddles 

Katherine Walker 



The rain falls cold and gray. I huddle in a plush 
oversized chair inside a plush oversized bookstore sipping bitter 
coffee from a paper cup purchased at a sleek and shiny coffee 
shop tucked away amidst a maze of bookshelves. Serious-faced 
people inhabit the archipelago tables. One man squawks into his 
cell phone. Another hammers an electronic reply to an instant 
message on his laptop computer. A woman stares in feigned 
interest at her tablemate's discourse. It is a disjointed 
pantomime of intimacy. I turn my back on them and face the 
horde. 

Bodies ebb and flow in a living ocean. Wave after wave of 
people wash through the doors, spilling across the bookstore and 
flooding into the cavernous mall behind. Weekend shoppers: 
herds of angst-ridden teenagers seeking sanctuary from parental 
eyes, preoccupied parents dragging ill-tempered children by the 
hand like dogs on leashes, couples flaunting like peacocks to see 
and be seen. Everyone with somewhere to be and something to 
do, scurrying to and fro with a misplaced sense of urgency, their 
arid faces seeing without sensing the vacuous earnestness in 
which they exist. 

I sit on my little island beyond the tide with a book in my 
lap. The familiar new book smell wafts over me in a chorus of 
virgin paper and glue. However, my mind is too numb to crack its 
hardbound shell, too dull to decipher the words printed across its 
pages. So instead, I stare through the rain-streaked window. 
Cars circle the parking lot beyond like vultures until they find 
that one perfect parking place. More people spew forth, running 
across the asphalt towards the sheltering doorway. 

Why do people run in the rain as if a few more drops of 
water or a few less footsteps make such a difference? It is really a 
fear of getting wet? Or could it be something deeper, some hidden 
reflection we choose not to recall of days when time was all we 
had; a child's memory of watching a puddle form drop by drop 
until the entire world has melted into that mirror pool and time 
only exists as the tinkling heartbeat cadence of drip ...plop... drip? 

I ask myself but I have no answer. 

Cell Phone Man grates his chair against the tile. I turn to 
view the little tableau and find it very much the same: Computer 
Man still types away, Aloof Woman is now the one regaling her 
friend with some anecdote while the friend sits in detached 
attentiveness. Cell Phone Man gathers his newspapers and rises, 



Calliope 



97 



phone still in ear, and walks away from the remains of a small 
latte and half-eaten danish. As he crosses the store, he bumps 
into my chair. 

"Sorry," he mutters as he turns only a fraction in my 
direction. His self-important scowl seems to say I shouldn't have 
been in his way. I watch him sidestep through the door as a 
woman carrying a child in tow tries to navigate the narrow 
entrance. Cell Phone Man pauses at the curb and glares into the 
sky, willing the sky to cease for him alone. The rain falls 
unimpressed. He holds the newspaper and holds it over his head 
as he dashes to the dry safety of his car. 

A splash of color catches my eye. Amid the vast sea of 
somber hues, a small red umbrella bobs like a wind-filled sail in 
the hand of a little girl. Her other hand is enmeshed with her 
father's, pulling him slowly across the parking lot in a zigzag 
path. She stops to inspect each puddle she comes to only a 
moment before taking a great leap into its center sending the 
water up in shimmering sprays. Her impish face dances with 
laughter. The eyes of her father reflect the little girls amusement. 
When they near the curb, she closes her umbrella and, taking 
both of her father's hands, leaps once more as he lifts her in 
momentary flight before alighting a few steps from the door. They 
enter the store and the man wipes the rain from his face with his 
free hand. His neatly ironed slacks are soaked from the knees 
down because of the little girl's romp. As the pair walks further 
into the bookstore, the man catches my watching eyes and 
smiles. I realize it is in response to my own. 

I rise from my island and navigate through the horde to 
the checkout counter. A woman whose weary eyes belie the 
painted-on smile so carefully applied at the start of her shift 
scans my book and places it into a plastic bag with practiced 
efficiency. I hand her some cash and she hands me a receipt with 
my change. 

"Thank-you-come-again-I-can-help-the-next-person-in- 
line-please?" she rattles off as a man in line behind me is already 
inching his way forward. 

"Thank you. Have a wonderful day," I reply with a smile. 
The painted-on smile falters a bit as the clerk's face registers mild 
shock at the interruption of her routine. 

"Thank you," she repeats slowly before turning to the 
impatient man before her. Her eyes seem just a little less weary. 

I step outside and raise my face to the sky. The first 
kisses of raindrops on my face are cool and fresh. I unfurl my 
own sail and swing it wide to the gentle breeze. Stepping from the 
curb onto the water-slicked asphalt, I sail off to seek a puddle of 
my own. The world melts away while all around me the rain falls. 



98 



Until 

Valeri Moore 



In seclusion I drop the mask I hide behind. 

On my knees I pray. 

I give up my confessions of what I did wrong, 

until my 

throat aches 

my stomach is empty 

and tears have cooled my burning cheeks. 
I pray until I 
Feel deserving again, 

until I can look at myself in the mirror. 
Still I shiver. 

Trying to push the memories of my confession away, 
I pick up my mask. 

returning to the role i play 

I step back into my life, 

wipe the tears from my eyes. 

Surrounded by familiar faces 

I play my part just right; 

Laughing, 

Smiling, 

I hide my pain 

all the while convincing myself 

when I am good enough, 
Then I will be me. 



Calliope 99 

Safety and Comfort Guide 

Karen Harrell 

The woman has been sitting in my section for over 
an hour now. I've properly refilled her coffee cup four 
times, making sure she is well stocked with coffee whitener 
every time I stop by her table. Of course, it isn't real half- 
and-half; this isn't that kind of place. We specialize in 
comfort food, comfort food she doesn't seem to be inter- 
ested in. When she first sat down, I listed the specials: 
meatloaf and mashed potatoes or fried catfish and green 
beans. She didn't even look at me while she declined to 
order. She barely croaked out "I'm waiting for someone to 
meet me." 

Since then, the mound of creamer has grown to 
enormous proportions beside her cup; she only uses one 
per full cup of coffee, but doesn't take sugar. It's like some 
sort of mathematical equation; it's policy to bring at least 
three creamers, so she has eight left over from the twelve 
I've brought her so far. Every time I refill her cup, she 
pours in her one creamer and spends at least two minutes 
stirring it in, while she stares blankly at the tablecloth. 
After she is done stirring, she looks over at her mute 
mobile phone, as if she has missed a call. It isn't very loud 
in here today; Wednesdays at 3 p.m. rarely are. This is why 
I've had time to refill her coffee and stare at her from 
behind the drink station. I don't think she's noticed, yet. 

She isn't the type of woman I usually go after, but I 
can see a hint of attractiveness about her, hidden behind 
her nervousness. She's not overly well dressed for an office 
atmosphere, but in this land of jeans and T-shirts, she is 
dressed to the nines. She has on a grayish purplish pair of 
pants with a dark purple blouse. Her jacket, which 
matches the pants, is draped carefully on the back of her 
chair. Her dark brown hair is in a severe bun, and I can 
see strands of red that seem natural, not out of a bottle. 
Her makeup is minimal, as far as I can tell, just a bit of 
eyeliner and shadow. I can see her freckles peaking out 
from behind light foundation, and her skin is pale beneath 
the little bit that she is wearing. She looks like she may be 
between 25 and 35: the age range that guys like me can 
never read. I always end up on the opposite end of the 
scale in that range when I try to guess a woman's age. I 
used to work in the midway at carnivals, guessing ages 



100 



and weights. One girl cried because I guessed she was 32 
when she was really 26. Another beamed when I guessed 
25; she turned out to be damn near 40. I didn't keep that 
job long. 

I just refilled her cup again; this time she looked 
toward me. She didn't really look at me, more at my hands 
filling the cup. When I asked if she was ready to order, she 
actually spoke in a relatively louder tone, but still didn't 
want food. I'm back at the drink station, watching her stir 
the cup for minute two. I think she's being stood up, but 
I'm not sure. She seems so anxious, like she doesn't want 
to meet whoever is coming. I think this last cup of coffee 
has kicked in because she keeps eyeing the door like she 
thinks any minute now, here comes my guy. I can't imag- 
ine she's here for a date; who the hell takes a woman out 
to a country restaurant on a Wednesday before 5 p.m.? 

While I watch her, I start to imagine what she does 
all day. I think she is a teaching assistant at the local 
college. I haven't seen her around, but she seems the right 
age, and her suit isn't good enough for her to be a full- 
fledged professor. It looks like she is comfortable in it and 
that she has owned it for more than a year or two. I see a 
couple of patches that are worn on the jacket's elbows; I 
bet she leans on them a lot. She has a dab of chalk dust 
on the cuff of her blouse, pee yellow against that dark 
purple. I saw that the last time I filled the cup. She can't 
be a high school teacher or middle school, they don't let 
out until 4 p.m., and it isn't quite 3:30 yet. Plus, she came 
in around 2; I remember because I had just finished rolling 
silverware for the dinner rush. 

She just took a book out of a hidden inner pocket 
from her jacket. It looks slender, like a date book. Maybe 
she is a businesswoman, but I can't figure where from in 
this town; we don't have an over abundance of corpora- 
tions. She could be from the city, but why would she drive 
all the way here to not eat food? She can get coffee in one 
of those chain places that specialize in strong coffee at a 
strong price. Instead, she is sitting here drinking our 
crappy brew. 

I've come to hate the guy she is waiting for. At this 
point, I know it is definitely a guy; she is just too jumpy for 
it to be a long lost twin or a girlfriend from high school. 
She doesn't have a purse with her, so I don't think it's a 
date. Girls always seem to bring purses on dates, so they 
can touch up their lips or just look girlier. I like women 



Calliope 101 

who leave the damn things at home. Anything they need, 
they should be able to carry in their pockets. If they don't 
have pockets, then they are too fancy for me. She isn't 
wearing lipstick, so she doesn't need to touch it up. Every- 
thing else is in her bottomless jacket pockets. I think I love 
her for that. 

A man just walked in. She looks quickly at the 
door, but it isn't her man, he just wants to use the John. I 
notice she still hasn't started on this fifth cup, so I am still 
behind the drink station, fiddling with the pitchers, wiping 
the counter over and over. 

When I get lonely, I start to read the warning labels 
around my apartment. One of my favorites is on my com- 
puter keyboard. It says, "To reduce risk of serious injury to 
hands, wrists or other joints, read Safety & Comfort 
Guide." Funny thing is that the keyboard didn't come with 
a guide; I got it in the mall when my old one went on the 
fritz. That always makes me chuckle; so many things 
should come with a Safety & Comfort Guide. I wish I could 
write one for this lady; she is the furthest from safe and 
comfortable that I've seen in a long time. She reminds me a 
bit of the woman who ran the funnel cake stand at the 
carnival I worked for. Both of them have nails bitten to the 
quick. Both of them drink coffees like crazy. I mean, really, 
five cups in just over an hour. No wonder she's so jumpy. 

Whoa, her man is here. He just sat down and looks 
peeved as can be. I think she is his mistress and he didn't 
want to meet her near where they live. He's older than she 
is; he looks about 45 and is wearing an old suit, with 
stupid patches on the elbows. He has really dark hair with 
lots of gray strands and is unloading a leather satchel. Boy 
oh boy, he just keeps piling books on the table; they all 
look dusty. 

I just got him a coffee. What a dick, he barely 
grunted at me. Neither of them want food, and my girl 
refuses to look up from the coffee cup now. He keeps 
acting like her father; he's red in the face and keeps talk- 
ing at her, down to her. She has a little color now, a blush 
in her cheeks like she is ashamed. I'd like to shame him, 
making her wait that long. I think 111 spit in his coffee cup, 
a nice fresh cup of phlegm for his creamer. 

I gave him his coffee and he didn't even thank me. 
Hell, he didn't even acknowledge my presence. He is 
definitely pissed about something; she's crying now, si- 
lently. I wanted so badly to ask her if she needs help, but 



102 



she won't look up from her cup at all. I bet he beats her, 
shakes her like a doll and throws her around the hotel 
room before he takes her. I can see him doing that, grasp- 
ing her turned in shoulders and just shaking her until her 
teeth rattle. Or, maybe he just yells at her while she cow- 
ers on the bed, wearing whatever skimpy thing her throws 
her way. I bet his wife is fat and wears too much makeup. I 
bet she carries a purse. 

Now he's calming down. He just grabbed her hand 
and is talking softly to her. They are leaning into each 
other, like they are at some romantic bistro instead of a 
greasy spoon. He's like the side show barker I had to beat 
up the summer I was at the carnival. He wouldn't stop 
yelling at the nervous funnel cake girl. That's what finally 
lost me my job, that and the fact I couldn't guess ages 
worth a shit. I can't stand a man who yells for no reason, 
especially at a woman. I mean, what the hell is this guy 
thinking, yelling at her in public, making her cry? I bet 
he's bad in bed and she only stays with him because she is 
lonely, like me, like that funnel cake girl was. I could save 
her from him. I wanted to save the carny girl, but she had 
never known anything better. This girl must have had at 
least one decent guy in her life. 

He's kissing her hand now. What a shithead, 
buttering her up. I bet he's whispering crap like "I don't 
mean to get so mad, but you need to read all of these 
books if you want me to pump you full of my married guy 
jizz once a week." I may not be able to guess ages, but I 
know what lurks in the mind of a dirty old man. She 
deserves better. I think 111 bring her some pie. 

Ha! Old married guy didn't like that one bit. He 
started fuming as soon as I walked up with the pie, just a 
big old piece of apple pie with extra ice cream on the side. 
She looks like she needs to fatten up a bit; I've never met a 
girl who eats pie and takes shit from some dude. I can save 
her with pie; she's eating it and looked over at me smiling. 
Now I know I love her, for sure. He keeps glaring at me; I 
didn't bring him crap. Maybe I should bring him just that, 
a pile of steaming crap on a plate, make him eat shit 
instead of her. 

My boss made me step outside for a smoke; he 
could see me getting mad at the guy with my girl. He 
smoothed it over while I was gone and he wants me to 
apologize. Screw that; instead, I walked right up to the 
married asshole and popped him one in the jaw. I guess 



Calliope 103 

that was a mistake; my girl started bawling and screaming 
"Why'd you hit my dad?" Shit, guess I don't guess anything 
right anymore. It's like at the carnival, when I hit that 
barker. I almost went to jail over that, but the carnival 
owner got me out of the jam, as long as I promised not to 
ever show up again. No problem there, I hate carnivals. 

Now the girl has calmed down a bit. I'm just stand- 
ing here looking at her, waiting for her dad to get up. 
Finally she looks at me. 

"Why'd you hit my dad?" 

I explain to her all about thinking he was her lover 
and that I wanted to save her from him. I explain about the 
funnel cake girl and the barker. I explain about how I can 
take her away from here and start fresh, maybe in the city. 
I explain how I love her and I will always take care of her. 
She just looks at me, big brown eyes brimming with tears, 
but a small smile starting at the corner of her mouth. The 
whole time her dad is still cold clocked on the floor and my 
boss is just screaming at me. 

"What's your name?" 

I tell her my name is Lex, short for Lexington. I tell 
her about how my mom was a history buff and really dug 
the battle of Lexington. She just laughs softly, so I keep 
talking about how my mom died and my dad still lives in a 
little house in town. I tell her I finished school, my mom 
never raised a moron. I tell her that she doesn't need all 
those dusty books to live, just the world in all its glory. Her 
dad is starting to come around, so I start shaking, waiting 
for the inevitable return punch, or lawsuit, one or the 
other. 

Then my boss taps my shoulder and I'm back 
behind the drink station, rolling silverware. I guess I 
blanked out for a while there because the girl has just 
walked in and sat down. This time she's smiling; she's 
wearing her hair down and free. She looks over at me and 
winks. This time, she orders a big slice of apple pie and a 
cup of coffee. She looks in my eyes instead of at my hands. 
She smiles at me and says "Thank you." She's the funnel 
cake girl, all grown up, not needing me anymore. She eats 
her pie and drinks her cup of coffee, this time with two 
creamers instead of one. Then she grabs her purse and her 
check and heads out of my life forever. 



104 

Rebellious Child 
Tyeshia Redden 



I sit with lyrical devices in hand, desperately trying to 

salvage the image I maintain Yet these so-called skills 

cannot subdue the emotions my mind seeks to contain 

Suddenly and abruptly hurt by the most unexpected 

Thrown out into the cold, like the wandering soldier that 

has defected 

A longing to understand coupled with the shackles of one 

who loves too much 

Told that harsh decisions are made only for my good, only 

out of love and such 

And the mind-blowing realization of one who does not love 

at all 

Why I have been given these gifts only to squander them 

To have others misconstrue my meanings and create 

another problem 

Denied my birthright under the pretense of love 

Yet, she relit my flame, my true mother, the one from 

above 

In solitude, I endure the struggles that you carelessly 

dismiss 

Listening to the unfounded blasphemies that pour from 

your lips 

However, that was when I was young... 

You cannot comprehend the sheer terror I feel at becoming 

you 

But I was never meant to be on your level or follow your 

every cue 

Even now, you are trading subtle deceptions for blatant 

lies 

I see the bleak torture in store, for the windows to the 

soul, truly are your eyes 

Your ceaseless babble is only the beginning to your own 

ether 

The unspoken now being said, off any scale, cannot be 

handled by any meter 

Now I have found that lyrical devices are not needed to 

soothe this beast 

Only through my turmoil will I ever find my peace 

I only need my goddess-given words to truly express my 



Calliope 105 

desires 

You have only felt the heat; you are not ready for the 
flames of my fires 

I know your game, seen through your attempts at recon- 
ciliation 

I need you about as much as I crave anthrax in my inhala- 
tion In this never-ending struggle for every inch of satisfac- 
tion, I must first battle a mile 

Unknowing, not seeing, deaf, dumb, and blind to the 
plight, to the passion of this rebellious child 



106 

Irrational 

Carmela Orsini 



Oh no, not again. 

Wait a minute; be my friend. 

I need you here; I need you now; 

I need your help; I don't know how. 

I'm free falling, falling hard: 

So deal me in - give me good cards. 

And if you do, 111 know you tried, 

But if you don't, I know you lied. 

Sorry again, I know I'm wrong. 

What has kept you my friend so long? 

I don't mean to be so harsh, so mean; 

I'm so self-destructive, it seems. 

So here we are to the final though, 

For I am one not to be bought: 

Are you strong, can you handle me? 

Are you tough enough to be 

My friend? 

Oh no, not again. 

Wait a minute; be my friend! 



Calliope 107 



Ocean 

Ditrie Sanchez 



the ocean swell 

is at just the right angle 

to make you want to jump overboard, 

and the sun's rays are pinging 

off any bit of metal to be found 

like madmen in search of a memory. 

you don't really know 

that salt can sting 

until it slaps you in the face 

like a performing seal 

out of a Calder stabile 

and once it does you wonder 

does the sodium do it 

or the chloride, 

but then there's a whap 

and you decide it's worthless 

pain is pain, chemical or no. 

on the starboard side 

a slip of skin wafts about 

sliding in and out of the water 

it's embarrassing, really- 

it has no boundaries. 

but the tourists love to watch it 

so you bring them here 

to this indecent place 

where the dolphins seduce 

children's virginal hands. 

it's a time of discovery. 

i wash my hands 

then turn the wheel. 

that's enough for today... 



108 

I Sing a Song of Change 

David Bailey 



Saturday night is a strange beast. I sit in an easy 
chair while reading some winded writer rant on about 
walking in wooded areas. The television sits in front of me 
blaring a badly written skit program featuring untalented 
actors. The night is cold. A blanket sits comfortably around 
my shoulders giving me a strange feeling of immersion in 
some strange womb. What is most frightening about this is 
that I am enjoying it! 

I enjoy the cold because it gives me an excuse to 
bundle up and bathe myself in a false sense of snug 
security. I love the idiotic rambling of the television be- 
cause it fills the silence and blinds me to the fact that I'm 
alone. The piece of literature I have been scanning for 2 
hours drones on and on lulling me into a slow quiet stu- 
por. I nod my head and my thoughts scatter like a thou- 
sand insects on caffeine skittering about in every direction. 
Then they slowly dissolve into nothingness. 

Then I see her. She stands before me motionless. 
She stares off into a distance, searching, scanning, and 
waiting. After a few excruciating seconds her eyes turn to 
me. She stares at me blankly and expressionless. Her gaze 
is comforting and soothing. There was a time when I 
prayed every night just to look into her eyes. Then I realize 
she is not looking at me. She is looking straight through 
me. 

Then it starts. An echo of a song attempted long 
ago begins to play through my head. It is a refrain meant 
to praise and profess concealed feelings of love, but instead 
erupted into the world a weak, pathetic whimper that I try 
desperately to forget. It is a bastard child I dare not claim. 
No matter how much I run, it always finds me. 

With a sudden lurch I'm pulled from my pathetic 
stupor. The book falls to the floor with the intensity of a 
brick on glass. The dialogue from the awful television 
program now pounds like a megaphone propped up near 
my ear. I shiver and feel the sensation of cold withered 
hands scraping down my back. The memory of that song 
has once again ruined a perfect evening. 

What woman could cause such pain and despair? 
What song could possibly be that bad? One probably 
thinks of cheesy dime-store romance novels. Maybe she 



Calliope 109 

was my first love and time gradually separated us. Maybe 
it was an unrequited obsession that tangled my mind into 
ugly knots like a rope fed through the spokes of bicycle. 
Maybe the song was ours and her absence has made it a 
forbidden taboo because it reminds me of her. The truth is 
that it's much simpler and embarrassing. 

Her name was Elizabeth, and I think I loved her. I 
had watched her from a distance for about three months 
trying to muster the courage to say something. It's an old 
story that's been retold more then "Romeo and Juliet". 
Immature male struggles to overcome the fear of actually 
conversing with a member of the opposite sex. Girls are 
bug zappers to thirteen-year-old boys. We buzz around 
them, fixated in their all-encompassing glow; yet we keep 
our distance because we know the moment we touch we 
fry our brains and fall lifeless to the ground charred, black, 
and shriveled. 

After a couple of months I gave up. She was a 
couple of baseball fields out of my league. I turned my 
mind to more important things like card games, CD's and 
band class. Than one monumental Saturday night my 
friends and I attended a concert. The music was so loud 
any attempt at conversation turned into a screaming 
match. The lead singer wailed like a bat. He thrashed 
around the stage with the overabundant energy so often 
associated with a child that desperately needs Ritalin. This 
was the Hell that brought me face to face with her. 

I had just finished telling myself that there was no 
way this night could yield anything good or redeemable. I 
turned to leave and God answered the prayer I had aban- 
doned. I was face to face with her. For the first time I gazed 
directly into her eyes. I no longer perceived the presence of 
the ground. I felt light and weightless. The experience was 
remarkably similar to huffing aerosol. She was so beautiful 
to me. All I wanted to do was tell her how lovely she was. I 
wanted to fashion my words into poetry for her. I wanted to 
woo her with a true song of love and affection. 

Her mind numbing beauty dulled not only my 
senses but my words as well, "You... you 're... uh... you 're so 
beautiful. You're just so beautiful." My voice thundered 
through with the power of a cricket's chirp. The song I 
wished to sing for her had escaped my lips as a detestable 
mutation no better then the piercing screams of the heavy 
metal singer. My stomach seared with tumultuous agony 
as a single thought repeated through my mind like a 
morbid metronome, "You Idiot! You Idiot! You Idiot!" She 
just stood there and stared blankly like one would look at 
a rock or a wall. I walked away and sat in the parking lot 
for the remaining hour of the concert. The stars were lovely 
that night. 

We never actually spoke again at any length. I 
would see her floating by like a ghost in the halls not even 
noting my presence. There were instances where those 
eyes would turn to me, but instead of feeling weightless 



110 



and giddy I would feel anchored. I would usually stare 
down to the ground hanging my head in shame with the 
horrid mockery of a song echoing through my head. Those 
weak words backed up by the screaming of a talentless 
psycho haunt me still to this day. 

I should never have given up on her. Looking back I 
say to myself that every teenage boy makes a complete 
moron out of himself on a regular basis. There is no pos- 
sible way this girl nursed feelings of bitter hatred and 
angst simply because my first words to her were more than 
a little awkward. In reality, she may have been somewhat 
flattered. She was probably confused, but definitely flat- 
tered. I turned away from her and ran because I was 
embarrassed by one little botched attempt at a song. I 
would rather have forgotten that moment completely than 
continue pursuing something meaningful with her. The 
truth is you cannot run; you can never forget. It was 
bound to happen again anyway. 

And it did happen again. This is not the only song 
that echoes through my head and ruins an otherwise good 
day. This one usually surfaces while I'm driving to work in 
the morning. I'll be singing to a laughable sixties song 
about love and revolution. My voice rings within my head 
and seems to match beautifully to the music like I'm some 
undiscovered protege. I imagine myself on stage perform- 
ing to an eager audience showering me with affection. It 
takes no effort. The music flows naturally from me and I 
feel like a god. I laugh at my confidence, knowing how 
terrible I really must sound. 

Once again a melody begins to play in the distant 
corners of my memory. It is high pitched, off key, and 
simply awful. Once again it's the sound of my own voice. I 
try to put it out of my memory and think of other things, 
but its too late. It breaks out from the confines of my 
subconscious and dominates my thoughts. I try to turn 
away but it grows cancer like until there is no direction to 
look without staring directly into it. I let off the gas and 
begin to coast slower and slower. A short distance behind 
me a horn screams and I imagine the curses and obsceni- 
ties shouted by the driver. I wish I could hear them. Any- 
thing would be better than this damn song from a time I 
wish I could forget. 

This is how the song was sung. I was at a party 
standing alone in a corner sipping on some disgusting 
punch with a strange burning taste and an odor that 
reminded me of carburetor cleaner. I couldn't seem to 
break through the social barriers that separated me from 
the females. So I just stood in quiet desperation trying to 
give the appearance of having a good time. I stood with my 
arms folded in front of me bouncing to whatever song came 
over the speakers. I probably looked like a chaperone. An 
effeminate Latin American pop star burst from the speak- 
ers singing of finding that one true love, giving agonizing 
commentary to my present situation. The scene was 



Calliope 111 

saturated in irony and perverse humor. I really liked the 
song, and I'm pretty sure the punch was spiked. I began to 
quietly sing along with the lyrics confidant in the vastness 
of my social isolation. I didn't realize how loud I was. 

I remember their eyes, all turning and staring at me 
like I had committed some vile crime. To be realistic I had 
just practically raped the song. An agonizing silence 
passed over the room as the song came to an end. It was 
like the long quiet pause just before someone is executed 
in a guillotine. A young girl approached me. She was mildly 
attractive and my slightly inebriated logic had as of yet 
failed to understand the true extent of my foolishness. 

"Hey," I said with a slight tinge of self-congratula- 
tion. I thought I had succeeded in finally attracting one. 

"Hey, do you know who sings this song?" Her voice 
was like a harp, quick yet with a lasting resonance. 

"Huh huh, Yeah I think his name is Valero or 
something Spanishy like that", I'm sure she could smell 
the sour fire of alcohol on my breath. 

"Why don't you let him sing it then?" 

Five minutes later I was stumbling out the door 
into the all too familiar cold of the night. I remember 
standing there dumbfounded trying desperately to under- 
stand what had happened. Thought itself was challenging 
for me at this point considering the amount of tainted 
punch I had consumed standing alone in the corner. I 
breathed deeply and slowly while gradually lowering myself 
into a sitting position on the ground. I held my head in my 
hands fighting tears. Eventually I looked up and gazed 
upon my old friends, my true friends. The stars were once 
again incredibly lovely. 

Both of these memories are songs that erupted 
from me. They were poorly developed and embarrassing, 
but that is not why they haunt me. They torture and 
plague me because I gave them life and substance, then, 
like a coward, I ran away from them. I refused to address 
and accept them. All I wanted was to deny and forget their 
existence but they lay away hidden within the darkest 
corners of my mind. It's like a bad sore hanging around an 
obscure corner of the mouth. One minute a poor sap is 
enjoying a nice slice of pizza, and then he only grazes it 
with a miniscule crumb. His mind splits in two and the 
succulent taste of pizza fades away to searing agony. Then 
he worries, "when will I hit it again? I will hit it again; it's 
only a matter of time." 

They hold me hostage. These memories hide within 
me waiting to spring forth like predators stalking prey. 
They wait for that moment when I least expect, the one 
moment their existence has escaped me and I float in a 
pool of idle bliss. They wait for me to get nice and relaxed 
before they blow me to hell. 

After years of contemplating these malicious enig- 
mas prowling my mind, I may have finally started to truly 
understand them. They are like splinters. They hurt when 



112 



they first pierce the skin but once they have lodged the 
pain dulls away and only returns when you accidentally 
bump the area of the wound. The most painful thing to 
attempt at this point is removal. Leaving the splinter in the 
skin will only cause further damage later. Eventually a 
time will come when one must face this buried agony and 
remove it from the system entirely, even if it requires 
tearing away the layers of skin that have grown over it. 

But these are not splinters, they are memories. We 
can never forget and so we cannot fully alienate ourselves 
from the experience of pain. We incorporate it into our- 
selves. It becomes an integral part of our personal identity. 
Through experience we form our personal boundaries and 
learn from mistakes. What we learn from these experiences 
constitutes the layers of skin that grow over the splinter. 
The wound has been repaired and we learn to avoid the 
situation that lodged the splinter in the first place, yet the 
initial pain and embarrassment still remains. For every 
pearly attribute we brag about, a grain of sand rests in the 
center. I never sang at another party, and I always check 
the punch before I guzzle it. I never stuttered before a 
woman again and I actually pride myself in my sociability 
with them. Why do these experiences still cause me so 
much misery? Even after I have learned and grown from 
them they return to torment me. 

I'm sick of it. I'm twenty-one. I have been attending 
college for almost four years. My grades are good, I'm 
relatively healthy and my hair is terrific. I try as hard as I 
can and I live my life to the best of my ability. At the center 
of this vain impetuous youth lies a broken child crying 
over wounds that won't heal. Worst of all these experiences 
aren't even all that traumatic. There are people in the 
world who weep over the loss of loved ones, hunger, and 
war. I sit alone on Saturday night and grieve over a few 
social faux pas. I desperately need to get my priorities 
straight. 

The human mind is very complicated and mysteri- 
ous. They only real way to try to understand its mechanics 
is to use abstract terms and rely on metaphor. So, human 
memory seems to be formed like one would order from a 
very large buffet. The food is constantly changing and we 
select specific items that are suited to our taste among the 
overabundance. We are continuously bombarded by a 
menagerie of experiences and events. On a subconscious 
level, our minds pick and choose from the overcrowded 
buffet of meaningless experiences and construct collages 
that form the most pertinent and sacred experiences to us. 
Since the process is subconscious (when was the last time 
you really chose to hold onto a memory for the rest of your 
life?) then the mind is acting on its own beyond any real 
control from the person. That means one thing. These 
painful memories are there for a purpose. Now after years 
of suffering and running from these songs of dreaded 
experience I finally stand ready to face and understand 



Calliope 113 

them. 

I will never understand myself during those times. I 
was a sad, strange little child that had so much trouble 
just facing a challenge head on. Any time a complication or 
problem faced me I turned tail and ran. These failures only 
a few among many, tormented me so much that I couldn't 
bear exist in that primordial weakness. My cowardice and 
laughable, bumbling, innocence was a flaw that threatened 
to destroy me. What could I do? 

I grew up. I stopped running from my problems. I 
intentionally threw myself in awkward social situations to 
overcome my fear of women and confrontation. I experi- 
mented with several forms of alcohol in safe situations so I 
could learn the taste and know my boundaries. I knew 
what my problems were and I did my best to fix them. For 
the first time I can stand up and say I like myself. 

The self is a being that must experience challenges 
and trials in order to develop and grow. The mind is just 
like the body. The muscles must be stretched, torn and 
worked to grow and strengthen. Likewise, the mind and 
the soul must face the pressures and strains of life to 
become toned and strong. Without these embarrassing 
moments and the opportunity to overcome them, the mind 
and soul will atrophy. 

I don't think I will ever like the kid who screwed up 
so much when he was young, but he is owed a high degree 
of respect. He may have runaway from everything at first, 
but he did work to make sure these situations did not 
repeat themselves. He owned up to his flaws and worked to 
change and grow. He is my progenitor. Without him and 
his suffering I could have never existed. 

So from the ruins of two disastrous songs a new 
melody springs. It is a bit shaky and uncertain, but proud 
of its existence. It is a song of change. I sing for myself and 
any that wish to listen. Now, when those phantoms, im- 
ages and botched melodies come to haunt and torment me 
I will not simply run from them. I will welcome and enter- 
tain them. I will be thankful for the opportunity to review 
and explore the self that has grown. Socrates himself 
stated, "The unexamined life is not worth living." 



114 

You 

Hilary Wanes 



I miss you, 
but then again, 
I miss me. 

The parts of me 
that came from you, 
that used to remind me 
of me. 



Calliope 115 

Body and Mind, Heart and Soul 

Sheryl Avery 

As I left the building and waved good-bye to groups of 

people 

I see you running, hiding and tagging 

The service was no bore, it has taught you to be kind and 

forgiving 

And so you're happy, I see your mind is free 

You're playing 

Later I sat huddled on a cold bench in the park 

The wind blew silently and frigidly, a dog barked 

Still I see you laughing, swinging and sliding 

And so you're happy, I'm sure your heart is pure 

You're playing 

As I sat on the bathroom floor, a pool from your 

Bath water surrounding me, yet still I sat if need be 

I see you among tons of bubbles, splashing yet smiling 

And so you're happy, I've seen your body is clean 

You're playing 

I smiled lovingly as I tucked you in bed and dimmed the 

light 

I see you praying and yawning as you sleepily uttered 

goodnight 

As you lay between the covers, your eyes are closed, 

A soft smile on your lips, you seem to be asleep 

And so you're happy, I'm pleased your soul is at peace 

You're sleeping 



116 

It's My Body; I Can Do Whatever I Want! 

Jessica Martinez 



I worked all day to come home to the news — 

protesters protesting the Anti-abortion protesters 

and a picture of a young woman 

whose jeans were slung low below her belly. 

She had drawn a picture on her lower abdomen 

with thick, red marker — a uterus, fallopian tubes and 

ovaries. 

Inside her symbolic uterus, a word was written: MINE. 

I laughed — and if I had been present at the protest, 

I would have politely tapped her on the shoulder 

to inform her that while her uterus might belong to her, 

apparently, other organs of her female anatomy do not; 

after all, prostitution is still illegal in the United States. 



Calliope 117 



Foundation 

Chris Dunn 



How to explain this feeling, this terrible sickness. 

My heart aches and my stomach churns. 

Oh, to have my feet on solid ground, 

to truly know, to be whole. 

All things appear as but distractions to me now. 

The boulder's I so pained to move into place, 

all that I valued as solid has crumbled into nonsense. 

What I once held as indestructible, what supported me for 

so long, 

has vanished without a trace. 

I went to clasp it, but it brushed aside as a silken spider's 

web. 

This must not be it, I thought. 

It was here, I swear it. 

I will search it out, and it will comfort me once again. 

How sturdy, how predictable, how often I could count on 

it. 

This must be a nightmare. 

Wake me up, O God! 

I search and I search, 

I long and I long. 

What exists which is solid, what exists which is true? 

This nausea has consumed me, death seems sweet in its 

wake. 
How, how can what was no longer be? 

I've known joy. 

A warm blanket, a presence so sweet. 

An all consuming glow, pouring out of my heart, my mind, 

my fingers. 
All despair, all heartache, washed away in a glistening 

light. 

Waterfall of perfection, pouring, being, filling my soul. 

Unable to contain it, too much goodness. 

My heart becomes too big, I must explode. 

My love rips down the gates of hell, 

pervades all semblance of meaning, 

falls the mighty, anchors the weak, 

the world spins on its axis, 

the depths proclaim its greatness, 

all being proclaims its worth. 

Death, life, one and the same. 



118 



Bleakness now. 

Where a river once flowed, now is parched and desert. 

To do what is right, to find what is true. 

What vanity to try? 

Blackness and death, the only friends I can count on. 



Calliope 119 



120 




Spirit -In Memory of Dr. Jill Miller 

Julian Santa-Rita 




Hideaway 

Colin Stark 




Freedom 

Jamie Hubbard 




Within Me 

Amy Kidane 



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Spring 

Megan Stern 




Attitude 

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Calliope 

2006 



Armstrong Atlantic State University 
Volume XXII 



Cover art by Mia Montgomery and Allison Walden 



"Calliope" 2006 Staff 



Editor 

Autumn Flynn 

Co-Editors 

Stephanie Roberts 

Allison Walden 

Art Editors 

Britney Compton 

Dean Miller 

Fiction & Poetry Staff 

David Bailey 

Erin Christian 

Joe O'Connor 

Carmela Orsini 

Joseph Stevens 

Faculty Advisor 
Dr. Christopher Baker 



"Calliope" is published annually by and for the students of Armstrong Atlantic State Univer- 
sity. The Student Government Association of AASU provides funding for each publication. 
Student submissions are collected through the fall semester for the following year's publica- 
tion. All submissions are read and chosen through an anonymous process to ensure an 
equal opportunity for every student. The Lillian Spencer Awards are presented for out- 
standing submissions in art, fiction, and poetry. The recipients of this award are chosen by 
the staff from the student submissions received that year. 



For more information on submissions, or if you are interested in working on the 2007 "Cal- 
liope" staff, please contact Dr. Christopher Baker in the Languages, Literature, and Philoso- 
phy Department located in Gamble Hall. 



MISTOOK- ANTIC 

SWE UNIVMfTY 

UBRfflV 



. . . [A]rt is not meant to stop the stream of life. Within a narrow span of duration and space the work of art 
concentrates a view of the human condition; and sometimes it marks the steps of progression, just as a man 
climbing the dark stairs of a medieval tower assures himself by the changing sights glimpsed through its 
narrow windows that he is getting somewhere after all. 

Rudolf Arnheim, "Entropy and Art" 



You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. 

Mark Twain 



CONTENTS 



Letter From the Editor 9 

Fiction 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner "Candy Boy" by Paige Washington 10 

"Ocean Breathes Salty" by Whitney Hathaway 13 

"Safety Scissors" by Karen White 17 

"Camelot" by Carmela Orsini 25 

"The Case of the Rotten Potato" by David Williams 32 

"A Hero's Welcome" by Sean Kymalainen 41 

"Tangled Up in the Blues" by Karen White 48 

"Fever" by Carmela Orsini 51 

"Buddha on the Hill" by Karen White 52 

Poetry 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner "The Shotgun Blast Toe-Tap" 

by John Stockel 61 

"History of the Motion Picture" by Rob Adair 62 

"Love Knows No Time" Travis Wallace 64 

"Merry-Go-Round of a Memory" by Mia Montgomery 65 

"Woman" by Autumn Flynn 66 

"Truth" by Erin Christian 68 

"Sunset" by John Stockel 69 

"Adventure" by Erin Christian 71 

"Heroes" by Joe O'Conner 72 

"Don't Give Me" by Amanda Mathis 73 

"Creating a New Dream" by Mia Montgomery 75 



Artwork 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner "Untitled," Photograph, 

Luciana Caniero 47 

"Pobre Pero Rico," Digital Print, Apokalyptik 12 

"Tree," Digital Print, Apokalyptik 16 

"Playa Del Coco," Digital Print, Apokalyptik 21 

"Cafe," Digital Print, Apokalyptik 26 

"No Parking," Digital Print, Apokalyptik 31 

"Untitled," Acrylic, Elizabeth Bedell 33 

"Incredible Hulk," Ink and Color Pencil, Dean Miller 40 

"Untitled," Black Paper, Elizabeth Bedell 45 

"Untitled," Prismacolor Pencils, Mia Montgomery 49 

"Untitled," Charcoal, Mia Montgomery 50 
"Untitled, American Legion Post 135, 2005," Photograph, 

M. F. Greco 53 

"Rhinocerangel," Ink on Fine Paper, Dean Miller 58 

"Untitled," Mixed Media, Elizabeth Bedell 59 

"Untitled," Digital Photograph, Luciana Caniero 60 

"Scattered Fiction," Silver Gelatin Print, Mia Montgomery 63 

"Untitled," Digital Photograph, Luciana Caniero 67 

"Untitled," Silver Gelatin Print, Crystal Poole Dummitt 70 

"Untitled," Photograph, M. F. Greco 75 



Letter From the Editor 

One of the powers of art is its ability to allow us to see through another's eyes. Exciting art contains truths 
that can only be revealed by viewing life from another's perspective. The goal of this year's "Calliope" staff 
was to produce a magazine that reflects the creative diversity of the students at AASU, so that the readers 
can see life through many different perspectives. 

The fiction, poetry, and art within this magazine transported this staff to other places and times. From the 
seat of a wheelchair to behind an arcade counter, the short stories reveals truths through humor and tragedy 
sometimes within the same piece. The poetry examines topics such as the price of heroism, asking ques- 
tions not easily answered. The artwork, both striking and subtle, fills the magazine with vibrance and color. 
Through various mediums such as photography and charcoal, the artwork realizes the world of dreams 
mingled with reality that the fiction and poetry illustrate with words. Above all, this issue of "Calliope" offers 
these talented students (many of them, for the first time) to see their ideas realized and most of all, gives 
others the opportunity to see reality in a new way. 

This magazine does not feature art for art's sake nor diversity for diversity's sake. The purpose is for the 
readers to see the world of truths outside of themselves, if only just for a moment. The art within this year's 
"Calliope," hopefully, will not only allow its readers to escape but to understand something beyond their own 
experiences. 



Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Fiction 

Candy Boy 

by Paige Washington 

There was a reason the women said he was so sweet. I heard that when his mama was carrying 
him, she had a terrific sweet tooth. Sure, she ate healthy enough to satisfy the old women in starch white 
uniforms that smelled of liniment and rubbing alcohol. But how would they know that the balanced meals fell 
somewhere between her round the clock snack time. Gummy bears and chocolate and bubble gum all day 
long, but she liked nothing more than her sugary sweet gum drops. 

A thick layer of sugar on top, gooey sweet through and through was the way he came out. His mama 
licked her lips every time she planted a kiss on that boy's cheek. As he got older, all the girls did too. Run- 
ning behind him like he was an ice cream truck, with a magical bell or something just as dooming. The clever 
little girls called him Candy Boy. 

"Candy Boy," they'd whine. "Candy Boy," they'd moan as he kissed them good night on his stoop. 
Their own special name for him. 

I couldn't help but see them from my window. It didn't surprise me how every girl that brought him 
home seemed unconcerned with Gum Drop's immediate disinterest in them as they furiously waved goodbye. 
That scene replayed at least three times a week. Each time a different girl. 

Of them all, Meka Tanner was the worst. She made me sick walking around with her nose in her 
behind like she was Gum Drop's only. Like all the other girls knew about her, she had to know about all the 
other girls. 

From my window, I could see the disappointment on Meka's face. The same look every time she 
dropped him home and wasn't invited in. Gum Drop leaned in and whispered to her and she smiled just a 
little. 

I sighed and walked away from the window. How could these girls let themselves be fooled like that? 
Every single one of them knew Gum Drop was no good. They had to know they weren't the only ones calling 
him Candy Boy as they gazed dreamily into those hazelnut eyes beneath thick dark cotton eyebrows. 

Something plopped on the bed beside me. A Sugar Daddy sucker. I looked up in time to see another 
sail through the window at me. Gum Drop stood on his stoop glaring at me. 

"Boy, what do you think you're doing?" 

"I thought I'd give you something to eat while you spied on me. What's a movie without popcorn?"' 

I put my hand on my hip and rolled my eyes. "There you go again with that big ol' watermelon head 
of yours. I come to my window every night to get some air and think." 

He sat on the railing closest to my window. From there I could see the icing in his eyes. The yellow 
of the street lights buttered his skin into a deep milk chocolate. He wasn't all that. 

He threw up his hands in surrender. "Alright, alright. I was just playing." 

I sucked my teeth and threw the candy back to him. "Since you just playing, you can have these 
suckers back. I don't eat candy. My teeth are too sensitive." 

Gum Drop laughed. "Now ain't that a twist. A black woman admitting she's weak. Ain't you a find?" 

"Weakness and sensitivity are two separate ideas," I said representing my college education. "And 
weakness is an idea I know nothing about. I would have guessed you would know the difference by now." 

"Why's that?" 

"From all your experience, you should know the difference in all class of women." 

He shrugged and smiled up at me. "I know a classy lady when I see one. Can I help they usually 
see me first? Don't roll your eyes at me." He was quiet for a while. I was sure he was trying to decide what 
to say next. He didn't usually have conversations with women whose heads weren't floating twelve feet 
above her shoulders. I was the first. He just sat there staring off into a starless sky. I knew that there was 
something smart he wanted to say. I just knew it wasn't going to be about the #1 book on the bestseller list. 
Probably more about who was #1 on 106 and Park that night. The views of Ms. Morrison or Mr. Wright had 
no place in his busy agenda. The last book Gum Drop read was more likely Hansel and Gretel. 

He leaned against the brick and folded his arms. "What do you mean I'm experienced?" 

He knew what I was talking about. Gum Drop was always so cocky. He might have thought that I 
was going to fall into his mindless crowd of admirers and tell him how much of a Mack he was. But for as 



10 



long as we'd been neighbors, he couldn't get it through his head that I wasn't one of the other girls. I pre- 
ferred Equal to sugar. 

I leaned out of the window. "If I have to explain that word to you, I'm giving you more credit than you 
deserve." 

Gum Drop stepped to the other side of the railing and jumped down to the sidewalk. He walked over 
to my stoop where my mother kept her array of potted flowers and aloe vera, and propped a foot up on the 
step. 

"You know something. When I was young, I used to love fairy tales. Oh yeah. I remember listening 
to Little Red Riding Hood in Ms. Hurley's kindergarten class. Little Red Riding Hood trying to get to 
grandma's house. It was the stupidest story I'd ever heard. Even as a little kid, who could believe that 
nonsense?" 

I was appalled at his ignorance. "That is a classic story. What do you mean, it's nonsense? The 
story has lasted through time. What do you know about classic literature?" 

Gum Drop shrugged his shoulders. "All I know is that the little red breezie in the story was asking for 
trouble. Come on, how gullible can you be? How could she believe this big hairy wolf was anything as sweet 
as he claimed to be? To make it so bad, she called him on everything and yet she stood there giggling." His 
voice went up an octave, "Grandma, what big eyes you have -tee hee. Grandma what big teeth you have - 
tee hee hee." 

I couldn't help but laugh at his humorous description. There was some truth to it. 

He laughed with me, tilted his head up toward my window and threw the candy back to me. It landed 
on my bed. "I'm just saying Ma, if she could see the wolf was hairy with huge slobbering teeth, why would 
she waste another minute in there with him? Ain't no way that wolf smelled like cookies and pies like a 
grandma is supposed to. That's what I mean when I say women are weak. What's being said to y'all is far 
too important to pay attention to what's happening. I guess you want what you want too badly to trust your 
own eyes. And most of the time what you see is what you get." 

The street light flickered brightly above his head. 

"Can't get mad at me." 

Headlights shined onto our block as a car turned. Gum Drop mumbled a cuss word under his breath. 
"I told her to go home." Meka's blood red Miata pulled up in front of my stoop. To my surprise and Gum 
Drop's delight, her outfit had completely morphed into a halter top and the shortest shorts she could cut up in 
twenty minutes. 

Meka wiggled up to him. "Candy Boy," she whimpered when she reached for his arm. 

"What's wrong?" He didn't move from his stance on the stoop. 

"I went all the way home when I realized I can't get into the house. My sister has my keys and won't 
be home until tomorrow." She grabbed his hand and tugged. "I need you, Candy Boy." 

Gum Drop looked up and smiled his toothy grin. He winked. I watched as they drove off in the Miata. 
I went to the bed and picked up the Sugar Daddy. I opened it and let it melt on my tongue. 



11 




'Pobre Pero Rico," Apokalyptik, Digital Print 



12 



Ocean Breathes Salty 

by Whitney Hattaway 

In a small hut in Sri Lanka, a man is lying on his back on a wooden cot. His skin blends with the 
darkness of the mahogany wood and he is camouflaged until he opens his eyes. He lies awake for a long 
time, listening to his family. Quietly, he turns over on his side to get a better view. They do not see him in the 
hut and he likes it that way. 

Outside, his four children are drawing pictures of the ocean in the dirt with a stick. Their collaboration 
forms a masterpiece of waves and ridges. And next to them is his wife, bent over a basket of laundry. He 
can see her through the doorway, fishing through the wetness of fabric, pulling each tangled shirt or dress up 
to the light and shaking the water free. The droplets of water catch the sunlight and illuminate as they fall to 
the floor and speckle the dirt. 

After a while, his arm falls asleep, so he shifts his weight a little. Beneath him, the cot moans and 
reveals him as a spy. His children abandon their art and come over to his bed where he feigns sleep. His 
smallest child climbs onto his chest and squeezes his mocha cheeks together. The child's airy laugh fills the 
hut and he grabs her and begins to tickle her. His wife drops the shirt she was wringing out and watches 
them. She has always loved his smile; those gaps from the missing teeth and the way his eyes crinkle and 
light up like crescent moons. The family gathers around their father, all laughing, and the sound drifts out into 
the village and is carried away by the wind. 



The woman in the second row, window seat, leans her head against the window. For a long time she 
stares into the emptiness of the clouds, her head vibrating from the velocity of the plane. After a while the 
dreariness of England begins to fall away, transforming from a dull gray to a warm, exotic paradise. Below 
the islands float atop the mermaid blue water like weightless stones. Tiny vessels dot the surface like ink 
droplets. The clouds begin to thin, revealing her destination below. The tear drop of India, Sri Lanka. 

The captain comes over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, we'll be landing shortly. Please return 
all seats and trays to the upright position and fasten your seatbelts. We hope you enjoyed your flight with us. 
Thank you for flying British Airways and welcome to Sri Lanka." 

Nervously, the woman drums her fingers on the armrest and sighs. Landing is the worst part, but any minute 
now, she thinks, we'll be in paradise. 



Raj Shu kisses each child's forehead before he leaves for the day. Then, he kisses his wife and 
whispers into the shell of her ear that he loves her. When he does this, his hands rove up the side of her 
body feeling her bones against the softness of her dress and the warmth of her face brushing his. 

After he does this, he begins travelling down the worn path through the village and down to the 
ocean. When he gets to the corner of his street, he turns and waves to his family who are standing at the 
door of the hut, waving back. Here, he pauses one last time. But things look different today. His wife looks 
more beautiful. His eldest boy, more strong. And the smallest one, he notices, has his smile. In realizing 
that, Raj decides he will pay more attention next time. 
And with a sigh, Raj drops his hand and continues down the road. 



The glass doors of the airport slide open and Emily emerges, pushing her sunglasses over her eyes 
and pulling her curly, chestnut hair into a ponytail. The heat wafts against her face and she recoils for a 
moment not used to the humidity. Following the locals, through a trail of palm trees she finally sees the 
village by the sea. Emily smiles and takes a deep breath, tasting the salty ocean air and smelling the fish 
from one of the fish market stands. All around her the locals were going about their everyday trials, buying 
food for their families, riding they're bike to work. As they speak, they gesture wildly with their hands and their 
dark eyes flash in the sunlight. The scenery looks so wonderfully earthy, as if the people sprang forth from 



13 



the dark roads of the earth themselves. 

Coming around another bend in the road, she finds her hotel. Standing alone next to a group of little 
bungalows, it looks like a massive, white fortress. It looks out of place. The woman behind the desk asks her 
her name and gives her a key. Her room is on the fourth floor and when she pushes open the door, she 
notices that she can see many miles out to sea. 

It's perfect, she thinks. Absolutely, perfect. 



Raj has an attraction to the sea. He was born on the beach, in fact. One summer day, his father and 
mother were having a picnic down by the water when his mother went into labor. A crowd stood around to 
watch, but Raj's father was alone in delivering him. His father and mother didn't notice that the water kept 
creeping closer and closer, even though it wasn't high tide, as if the foamy fingers of the sea wanted to steal 
Raj away and keep him for themselves. The townspeople realized it though and after Raj slipped out of his 
mother, one of the wise men of the village claimed that Raj had controlled the sea. Confused, his parents 
turned to the water. As the man had said, the water level was inches from where their bodies lay and was 
washing away all the blood. 

So, everytime Raj had a birthday, his father would tell him the story of the sea and they would go 
down to the ocean for a picnic just like that day. Raj never believed it, however. But today was different. His 
parents have long been dead and today is his birthday and he wants to spend it next to the ocean. 



Emily looks over the balcony of her hotel room. The people below look like washed up fish, frying in 
the noon day sun. She pulls on her black bikini and a pair of khaki shorts. Grabbing her knapsack, she 
closes her door and locks it. 

Instead of taking the elevator, she takes the stairs. Winding her way down as fast as she can, excited 
to get to the beach. She walks for a while, feeling the grainy sand stick to her toes, sometimes getting close 
to the water and sometimes walking along in the shade of the palm trees. She finally stops at the north in the 
beach where most of the locals gather. There, she spreads her beach towel out and it fans around her. 

Emily watches the locals who have gathered. To her right, a family of six is having a lunch. They talk 
rapidly in a language she doesn't understand. Someone has a radio on, playing Western rock n' roll. And to 
her right, a fragile looking man emerges from one of the waves. She watches him walk, swinging his arms 
like pendulums. He wrings out his clothes, leaving a trail of water behind him in the sand. 

He must sense her watching because he stops to look at her. She waves awkardly. 
He smiles. Some of his teeth are missing. He resembles a gap toothed Jack-o-lantern she thinks. 

He comes towards her. 



It took Raj an hour to reach the ocean. Halfway through the village he decides to stop at the fish 
stand. The man behind the rickety, wooden stand wrapped his fish in wax paper and they talked about 
they're families for a while. 

Raj always knows when he is close to the beach because the dirt road begins to thin and through the 
palm trees you can see the blue of the water. After he jumps over a silvery piece of driftwood, he takes off in 
a run down to the water. Like a child seeing the ocean for the first time, he throws down his knapsack and 
jumps into the sea. 

Under the water, he opens his eyes. Tiny fish dart in and out of his view as he paddles along. He 
turns onto his back and floats to the surface. Past all the tidal waves now he is free from the chaos of the 
beach. He becomes a piece of driftwood, letting the current carry him. After several minutes, Raj cuts into a 
wave and is thrown back onto shore. 

He laughs and lays on the sand for a moment looking up at the sky. From where he is laying he feels 
the earth move. Raj feels like a tiny grain of sand in the ocean of the universe. 

Laying upside down, he can see a woman walking by. She radiates with her pearly skin and dark, 
brown hair. Raj turns over like he did that morning in his cot. Trying to get a better look, without revealing 
himself. From her knapsack she pulls a bright, red towel and flings it towards the sky. Raj gets up and 
begins to walk away, but she is watching him. 



14 



Grinning he walks over to her. 



Emily didn't notice that she was sitting next to an abandoned knapsack. Not until this man sat next to 
her and scooped it up into his narrow, bird-like hands. They do no speak the same language, but communi- 
cate in gestures and darting eyes. He points to her skin and smiles. 

"My skin, yes, very pale," she says. "Your skin is so beautiful, like the color of wood." 

They go on like this for several minutes, not knowing that they are both complementing the other. 
From his bag, he pulls out a small parcel wrapped in wax paper. Inside is some kind of meat, neatly chopped 
into little, red slivers. The man holds the crinkling package in his open palms and offers it to Emily. She nods 
and takes a piece of the meat. 

The man is always smiling, she thinks. He will probably die smiling, too. 

Together on the beach, Emily eats with this stranger. She has no idea where he came from, appear- 
ing to be born from the sea itself, not knowing his name or why he's sitting with her, but she eats with him, like 
she's known him all of her life. 



While he is eating, Raj watches the woman's jawbone, the gentle curve of her chin moving up and 
down. He likes the crystal color of her eyes and the softness of her pale lips. He tells her this in his lan- 
guage, although he knows she will not understand. 

When they finish eating the fish, Raj crumples up the wax paper. When he looks up again, the 
woman is pointing to the sea. The water has disappeared. The abandoned fish lay flopping, their gills trying 
to collect as much air as they can, opening and closing again and again. All of the tourists have run out to the 
now dry land, taking pictures of the transformed landscape. 

And the woman, reaches out to touch his arm with her cold hands and tells him something that he cannot 
possibly comprehend, her forehead filled with creases of concern. And then she is gone. 
Raj does not move from this spot or go down to the dried up land. Instead he stays seated on the woman's 
red towel, feeling the earth move again. 



Emily had a feeling it was coming. The receding water. The earth shaking. Something massive was 
coming. She told him to run, to get off the beach as fast as possible, but he only looked at her. As she ran 
from the beach she shouted at all the people, to anyone who would listen, to get to higher ground. Some 
followed her. Some simply stared. 

As she wound up the stairwell for the second time that morning, she realized she had left everything 
on the beach. That didn't matter now. She had to get to her video camera. 

Every bone in her body shook uncontrollably as she forced the key in the lock and scrambled to get 
the camera. "Calm down" became her mantra. "Calm down. Calm down," she told herself. Some people 
came out of their room, they must have heard her shouting. She points the camera out to the sea. 

And there it was. 

It was as if Poseidon himself had saddled his frothing sea horses and they were coming, waging a 
war on the people of Sri Lanka. 

Or was this the apocalypse? 

Was the world going to end today? 

Emily prepared herself, there on the fourth floor of the hotel. 



There on the horizon, the ocean was building a wall. Raj stands on the bright, red towel and shields 
his eyes from the sun. He has no idea what is coming. Maybe it was just a small wave, maybe he was 
dreaming. The woman wasn't real. This day wasn't real. He was asleep in his small hut, next to his wife. 

All around him the people were screaming. Fleeing in terror, but all were gone by the time the wave 
actually hit. Except Raj. 

Bracing himself against whatever lay ahead, Raj was to be the first casualty. 



15 



Emily trained her video on the only person left on the beach. He was a speck on her screen and 
unable to see his face, she didn't know that this was the man she had previously sat with. While everyone 
else fled, this man remained, walking further out to sea. 



Minutes, then seconds before his death, Raj Shu thought of his family. Of kissing his children's 
foreheads, of his wife kissing him, their tiny hut, his parents by the ocean, the taste of the fish on his tongue, 
and the sound of the palm trees scraping together in the wind. All of the things he would never know again. 

And Raj laughed. 

Thirty seconds before. 

He threw up his hands and screamed into the sky. 

And it seemed only fitting that the ocean that he controlled when he was born was now swallowing 
him up and taking him back. And the last thing he saw was the white foam of the sea. 



Two weeks later, they found Raj's body tangled up with a piece of driftwood under a dock. Some of 
the villagers pulled his body from the water and laid him on the cool wood of the dock. He was still smiling. 

When the doctor performing his autopsy pulled off his seeping shoes, they found a picture in one of 
the soles. A picture of a middle-aged woman and four children. 



Emily went down to the sea after three days. Her things were gone, having been washed away into 
the sea. But she wasn't here for her things. Instead, she pulled a video camera out of her bag and threw it 
into the sea. 




"Tree," Apokalyptik, Digital Print 



16 



Safety Scissors 

by Karen White 

"Julie, there is something wrong with your child." 

Julie had been on her feet all day making glasses in a small optical company. Upon walking through 
the door, she was hit by a peculiar scene. Her six-year-old daughter who she had named after her favorite 
Grandmother, Martha, sat on the hardwood stairs, peering from around where the wall joined the black, hard 
iron railing of stairs. Her mother, Lynn, stared at her, waiting for some sort of an answer to the statement 
about her daughter's odd appearance. Her father, Jerry, rattled his newspaper in the other room, and ignored 
the happenings of the women. Julie heard her stomach growl. It is 8 p.m. Her daughter should have been in 
bed at least an hour ago. Instead, her daughter's eyes were wide open, too wide, naked in fact. 

"Mom, Martha seems to have cut her eyelashes off. And her eyebrows. And what looks like a 
significant chunk of hair from the back of her head," Julie sighed, "again." 

Lynn's mouth puckered into its usual tight scowl. She darted her tongue out to the corner of her 
mouth, tasting the air like a snake. She whipped her head around to peer at the girl on the stairs, the girl with 
the naked eyes. 

"Go to your room. Now. Get your scissors. Now. Bring them to me. Now." Lynn's tone dripped with 
glee over the soon to be delivered punishment. Lynn liked punishment. Lynn liked chaos. Lynn liked ruling 
her roost. 

Julie looked at her mother, knowing what would probably happen. First, Lynn would grab the scis- 
sors, Martha's favorite toy, and break them in front of her daughter's bare face. Then, Lynn would grab the 
wooden spoon kept lovingly next to the stove for just such occasions. Julie knew and hated this spoon. The 
spoon had outlived Presidents. The spoon was God's wrath. 

Martha shook her head, negating the order. Martha knew Lynn. She knew about spoons. She did 
not, however, know that Lynn was God. 

Martha turned from sitting to leaning on all fours, then climb-crawled up the stairs with her little butt 
waving in the air. Julie smiled a bit at the action, seeing it for its cuteness. She sighed again. 

"Mom, weren't you watching her?" 

"Well, considering that you haven't paid me my baby-sitting fee this week, no, I wasn't. She came 
home, didn't even talk to me, and went straight to her room, where she has been all day, quiet as a church 
mouse at Easter. In my day, adults only check on kids when they make a ruckus. Apparently, you know 
different about raising kids. You've been doing a bang-up job so far." Lynn glowered at Julie, hurling a much- 
overused statement about parenting. 

"Mom, I'm doing my best. I'm sorry I haven't paid you, but business has been slow and tips have 
been drying up at my other job." Julie could almost hear Lynn calculating the lack of beer money in her head 
instead of considering the well being of her own granddaughter. 

Jerry got up from his recliner and came into the hall, clearing his throat to announce his presence. 
Stone-faced, he looked over at his wife, gauging her emotional barometer, and then he glanced at his daugh- 
ter, plainly seeing the exhaustion on her face. He stood for a moment, taking in the scene as if it was a much 
loved and much seen play, breathing in the tension and digesting it slowly. He wanted to stand up for Julie, 
but he too feared the wrath of his wife. The only solution he had for her drinking was not to give her the 
money or any hope for money to buy the beer. Otherwise, he stayed out of it because staying out of it was 
just easier. 

"Julie, don't worry about the money for room and board this week. Just make up for it next week," 
Jerry muttered, glancing sideways at his wife for permission. 

"Oh, ho, okay, now we can turn down money in this house. Have you noticed the price of food lately, 
dear? You don't do the shopping or the cleaning. I do it. You don't see that six-year-old garbage disposal 
with a penchant for trimming everything in sight as she eats us out of house and home. You don't have to 
bathe her or put up with her constant silence. All you have to do is go to work, come home to a pleasantly 
prepared meal, and sit down to your little nightly rituals. I need the money to keep this well-oiled machine 
going." 

Lynn worked herself into a self-imposed tizzy, eyes blazing, spittle drying on the corners of her mouth 
like the remnants of poison at the bottom of an arsenic suspension. Julie had seen this all before, as had 
Jerry. Julie responded by going to the kitchen for a hasty meal of condensed cream of eat shit and die soup. 
Jerry went to the den to begin his Thursday night ritual: network sitcoms until ten, then whatever cop show 
came on, then the news, then the bathroom, then bed, then sweet, succulent, escapist sleep. 



17 



Lynn stood for a moment, chest heaving, nostrils flaring with the stress of breathing, deciding which 
offending family member deserved her fury first. She looked toward the warm light spilling from the kitchen, 
hearing her traitor daughter heating up her cheap can of soup, eschewing the guilt ridden leftovers from that 
night's meal. Then she switched her view to the stark, flickering light from the den, evidence that her weak- 
minded husband was trying yet again to thwart her with the bland falseness of television. Then she raised 
her eyes heavenward, as if to query God for advice on the situation or to contemplate just how hard she was 
going to beat the reticent child located in that direction. She chose the kitchen; vocal guilt trips always 
warmed her up for physical altercations. 

Upstairs, Martha meticulously packed her little purple overnight bag with the picture of Rainbow Brite 
on the side. First, she carefully rolled up her favorite nightgown, the one with the cartoon duck with an 
umbrella. The nightgown was once red, but through over-washing, had faded to a dull pinkish, reddish see- 
through softness. The little duck had started to crack, but Martha loved it just the same. 

Next, she rolled up a pair of jeans and her favorite T-shirt, also once red, but now held together by 
mere threads. She added a pair of socks, two pairs of white underwear with pink flowers, and her pink 
princess comb and toothbrush set. Finally, she topped her run away from home sundae with a glaringly white 
washcloth and a small notepad with attached pencil. She walked over to her closet and began the decision- 
making process surrounding her shoes. She could grab the comfy white sneakers her mom had bought her 
a month before, or she could go for the supremely uncomfortable brown and cream saddle shoes her grand- 
mother had bought the day before. Surprisingly, she became confused because she thought that maybe 
breaking in the new shoes might be a good idea, and running away seemed to be a chance to break them in. 
However, the sneakers were more practical in the case she had to sleep outside or literally run away from 
anyone. She grabbed the sneakers with a content smile on her face. 

Her final missing piece to her much thought out plan for vacating the house was the pair of red safety 
scissors on her bedside table. She picked them up as delicately as a mother cat grasps her kitten with her 
teeth. There was a sense of danger when Martha held them, but the danger was overshadowed by pure 
love. Martha thought about her scissors. She had silently cut things to tatters everyday since she got them 
when she was four. First, she innocently started with paper dolls and magazines. However, soon after, she 
attacked household items with a stealthy battle plan that would make any general weep with joy. 

The first casualty was a maroon jumper her grandmother had pieced together out of hand-me-down 
fabric. Martha hated that patchwork dress with the same fervor that she loved her scissors. She was careful 
to cut only the threads holding the patches together. Snip, one patch fell to the floor. Snip, snip, there goes a 
big, ugly gold button, how sad. 

The only thing Martha destroyed that was a source of regret for her was her mother's hand crocheted 
afghan. Julie had made it while pregnant with Martha, amidst the constant berating from Lynn about how 
Julie deserved every pain and drop of sweat caused by the pregnancy. Martha knew this story well enough; 
at least once a week Lynn would drunkenly remind Martha that she was unplanned and ill gotten. Yes, 
mother was eighteen when she'd had her, but Martha knew Julie had already finished high school by that 
point. Yes, the father was unknown to anyone save her mother, and, every Christmas, Lynn demanded that 
Julie admit to who had knocked her up. Julie never told, which was the only battle she ever won against her 
tyrant mother. Julie seemed fine with the whole Immaculate Conception idea, so Martha never asked, plus 
Martha never would deny her mother the one win against grandma. That would be worse than cutting the 
afghan. 

When Julie found the shredded afghan, she cried silently, but held onto her daughter. Martha also 
cried silently, and tried to apologize with a hug and a sniffle. Julie stroked her daughter's fine, brown hair and 
simply said, "I'm sorry. I know you didn't mean it. I can make another." 

Martha stopped thinking about the afghan, feeling the hot prickles of tears at the corners of her eyes. 
Instead of succumbing to them, she put the tears back and stashed her scissors in the right pocket of her 
jeans. She locked her bedroom door as a measure to stall for time. She checked the time, only 8:30, then 
climbed out the window to the tree by the roof over the porch. She shimmied down the tree, walked to the 
sidewalk, looked both ways four times, then crossed the street and started walking at an even pace to the left, 
in the direction of her friend Sue. 

Martha had only been to Sue's house once, for a birthday party the year before. Lynn did not like 
Sue because, as she claimed, Sue's whole family smelled offish heads and rice. Sue was Vietnamese, a 
fact that didn't really enter into Martha's estimation, though it did figure into Lynn's decision to keep the girls 
away from each other, except for at school, a domain where Lynn was not allowed by law. Martha loved 
school. 

Even though Martha had only visited once, she knew the path well, having gone over it again and 



18 



again in her mind. Sue lived in a one-story brick house, perfect for sneaking in, as Martha's climbing abilities 
fell far short of her talent for descending a tree. She knew Sue would let her in because Sue was her best 
friend. Not her only friend, Martha had tons of superficial friends, but Sue was the best because she never 
questioned Martha's need to be silent. Sue knew the reason and was quite the chatterbox, so she liked 
Martha's quiet ways, enjoying the ability to talk unchecked. 

Martha walked up to her friend's bedroom window and tapped on the glass. A small light came on, 
and the window opened out as Sue cranked the handle with all her might. She saw Martha and smiled. 

"I just knew you'd come tonight. I told Mom that something big was going to happen tonight. Do you 
want some food? Come to the front door; mom knew you'd be here; she saw your grandma at the store 
today. She won't tell anyone." 

Martha smiled brightly and ran to the front door. By the time she'd arrived, Sue's mother had begun 
opening the door. Martha breathed in the house smell fragranced like a summer breeze at the beach, 
redolent with the salty-greasy smell of fried fish and the smooth-milky smell of coconut. Sue's mother smiled 
at her and motioned for Martha to come in. 

In the living room, the sofa was made up with a sheet and a blanket, like a little bed. Next to the sofa 
was a small bowl of soup with mysterious noodles and vegetables in a base of coconut milk. Next to that was 
a small plate with two pieces of fried fish wrapped in a grease catching paper towel. To complete the girl- 
sized meal was a small mug containing more milk than tea and lots of sugar, which was, in Martha's estima- 
tion, perfect little girl nectar. Martha plopped on the sofa, smiled a toothy, excited grin of thanks at Sue's 
mother, and dug into the feast. 

Sue's mother smiled maternally at Martha, taking in her bald eyes and the missing chunk of hair, both 
of which made her chuckle, knowingly. Sue's mother avidly loved this little girl she saw so rarely, a girl who 
Sue talked about incessantly after school, a girl who never spoke, but managed to get along just fine with a 
closed mouth. She stroked Martha's hair, delicately, kissed her forehead, dimmed the light, and left Martha to 
finish her meal and go to sleep. On her way to the bedroom, she checked on Sue, who had obediently gone 
straight back to sleep with a satisfied smile on her face. Sue's mother went in, fixed her daughter's covers, 
kissed her forehead, and finished her journey to her bedroom. 

In the bedroom, Sue's mother looked at the phone with a wrinkled brow. She remembered Lynn from 
the birthday party, a drunken woman who cared about no one except for herself. She had met Julie briefly at 
an open house the school hosted. Julie and she had gotten along pleasantly, attempting to set up play dates 
for their children. However, Lynn put a stop to that. Sue's mother reached for the phone book to find 
Martha's home number. She found it, but hesitated with her hand wavering over the handset. "What's one 
night?" she thought, "She can sleep here and go home tomorrow." 

Sue's mother heard a noise at the door. Sue was standing in the doorway. 

"Are you gonna call the cops, Mom?" 

Sue's mother shook her head. "No, honey. I think that would cause too much trouble for Martha. I'm 
just going to call her family so they won't worry." 

Sue picked up the handset and dialed. The phone rang, but no one answered. Sue watched, wide- 
eyed, hoping that Martha could move in with them forever. Her mother hung up the phone, then told her 
daughter to go to bed. 

In the cozy living room, Martha finished her food, drank the last drop of the tea, then unpacked her 
little bag. She removed her washcloth, comb and toothbrush set, and nightgown. She toddled to the bath- 
room and readied for bed by brushing her teeth and washing her face, then combing her choppy, short hair 
into some semblance of smoothness. Then she put on her safety nightgown and went to bed. 

As Martha was brushing her teeth in Sue's bathroom, her mother spoke to her closed door at 
Grandma's. Julie knocked softly, not really expecting any vocal recognition of the entreaty for entrance, but 
hoping for at least an invitation through a knob turned by small fingers. In the distance, she heard the phone 
ringing. She didn't get it. 

"Honey, I have to go to work. I know you're upset, so is your grandmother, trust me," Julie muttered. 
"I promise I'll make it better, but you have to try to get along with her until we can leave. I'm trying to save 
money, but I have to pay her to live here, and she keeps going up on the rent. Can you believe she said I 
could pay next week, but that I have to pay an extra hundred a month?" Julie said, more to herself than to her 
absent daughter. "Well, we'll figure something out. Just get some sleep and have fun at school tomorrow. I'll 
probably be at work before you get up. Try to eat your breakfast; it'll make her happy," Julie finished, voice 
thick with tears. 

Julie backed away from the door, dressed in her humiliating cocktail waitress uniform of a short black 
skirt, a tight, white button-up shirt, and black pantyhose with the required line up the back of the legs, really 



19 



just arrows to her ass. To add further insult to further injury, three-inch vinyl stiletto heels finished the outfit. 
Her back ached with defeat and the weight of three jobs requiring her to be on her feet every minute. She 
realized she hadn't actually seen her daughter in two days, except for the drama on the stairs, because of 
their schedules. She wiped away a tear, her head aching with the knowledge that her daughter was growing 
up too fast, much like she had to do when she was young. 

Downstairs, Jerry sighed. His wife and her vitriol were still at it, a dull drone of hate as a backdrop to 
the fluffy, lighthearted comedy playing out on the television. Jerry efficiently managed a security office during 
the day, a place of refuge in the storm of his wife. He remembered the Lynn he married, full of life and smiles, 
only a social drinker, and always bedecked in a fun wig to top off a wild outfit. Those were the good old days, 
the sixties. Then she had Julie. At first she loved the child; Julie never really gave them much trouble. Lynn 
baked her daughter cookies everyday, ironed her sheets, doted on her every move. All the while, Lynn took 
shots from a not-so-hidden bottle of vodka. Jerry saw the signs; he'd grown up in a small town in Oklahoma. 
He'd seen women broken by drinking, women who had nothing to live for, displaced women. Lynn was not 
displaced; she was a bomb waiting to go off. But, Jerry was no bomb specialist; he was just a man who 
wanted to get through each day. 

Lynn glared at her husband, leering with the knowledge that she'd browbeaten him into apathy once 
again. She stood, then turned to her sewing bag, her hiding place, her altar. She snatched it up and pranced 
to the kitchen, her harmonious church dedicated to petty tortures. The kitchen was the scene for most of her 
victories. It housed her wooden spoon, but it also contained a garbage disposal (perfect for paper dolls), a 
microwave oven (splendid method to melt crayons), and a set of three barstools (made for the express 
purpose of interrogation). 

Lynn lovingly placed the sewing bag beside the refrigerator, then walked over to the utensil caddy 
and picked up a wooden spoon. She tapped it against the cast iron skillet above her stove, sniffing in the 
bleach from her sink, listening to the light bonging her tapping was making. She walked to the sink and 
played the copper molds like drums, ignoring the scrapes they left in the bubble gum pink paint every time 
they moved when she hit them. She ran the spoon across the counter, and then scraped it against the iron 
trivets she had on the counter, waiting for hot dishes to rest on them. Lynn smiled; her mother gave her those 
trivets when she got married. She moved to the refrigerator and opened it. She ran the spoon across the 
grate of the shelves, then looked for her beer. She was out. 

She closed the fridge and looked beside it at her sewing bag. The bag was tapestry, matching the 
pink walls in the kitchen. She opened the wooden dowels that held it closed and took out a pint of vodka, 
cheap vodka, rotgut swill. She tapped the spoon against the bottle, took a gulp, then tapped again, listening 
to the difference in tone when the contents diminished. She thought about watching people who play the 
glasses, filling each glass to different levels, then running their fingers over the rims. She loved the sound it 
made, deeper with more liquid, higher with less. She drank more vodka, then sat on her barstool. She 
tapped the bottle again. This time the tune was different, very high, unlike the level of vodka left in the bottle. 

Another sound, shrill, interrupted her dance. Lynn swiveled to look at the blaring phone, perching her 
lips in thought. She slithered over to the wall phone and lightly tapped the phone off the handset, listening for 
the slight ping when she then tapped the connection to silence the phone. She grinned, hoping the call had 
been for Julie, maybe a call telling her daughter that she'd won a million dollars. 

Lynn finished her drink. She had punishment to dole out; she needed nourishment. And, she'd 
earned it. She'd won against a spoiled daughter and spineless husband. All that was left was the reticent 
brat upstairs. No need to hurry, she sank down onto one of the barstools, put her head on the counter atop 
her nested arms, and fell asleep, dreaming about spoons and her father. 

The next morning, Martha woke up and undid her bedtime ritual. She smelled something sweet 
frying as she pulled on her jeans in the bathroom. After she rewashed her face, rebrushed her teeth, and 
recombed her hair, she headed for Sue's kitchen. This kitchen was cozy with a little table set colorfully with 
orange placemats and a bouquet of daisies. Sue was already at the table digging into a plate of deep fried 
bananas when Martha walked in. 

"Did you sleep okay? I did. I slept forever. I wish you could have slept in my room, but mom thought 
you'd want to be alone. Did you want to be alone? We get to go to school together on the bus today; won't 
that be fun?" 

As Sue gushed at her, Martha started eating her breakfast. Lynn usually forced Martha into fried 
eggs, which Martha would forever hate. Sue's mother had deep fried bananas, something that seemed so 
exotic to Martha, yet comforting. The batter was slightly sweet and had a crispy puffiness. The bananas 
were warm and creamy, almost buttery. They tasted like love, like when Martha's mom made her favorite 
soup, French onion with extra cheese and a perfectly toasted round of bread floating over salty heaven. 



20 



Sue's mother walked past the girls, noticing Martha raise her eyebrows in thanks for the breakfast. 
She nodded at the girl, and then continued her path to the bedroom. Once there, she tried calling Martha's 
family again, but only heard the denial of the busy signal. She wanted to talk to Julie, but could not remem- 
ber where Julie worked. She went back to the kitchen and asked Martha, who only shrugged her shoulders 
after encircling her eyes with tiny fingers. Sue's mother chuckled - Julie worked with eyeglasses, but Martha 
didn't know the name of the company. 

After breakfast, the girls got onto the bus and went to school, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. At 
the moment after they'd sat down together and Sue had opened her mouth to begin a barrage of cheerful 
sisterly chatter, Lynn woke up. She groggily shook her head to clear the remnants of the vodka dance from 
the previous night, at least before the tooth-jarring headache set in. It wasn't too late; she could still take her 
ire out on the child before school, although she'd planned on reserving some punishment for after school, 
during dinner, after dinner, and before bed. 

Lynn stepped jauntily up the stairs, whistling "Can't Buy Me Love." She strode up to Martha's closed 
door and stopped, confused. Usually the child was up before anyone else, probably to wreak havoc on 
Lynn's orderly house before anyone could stop her. But, the door remained closed, a fact that infuriated 
Lynn. 

"That child has no right. No right to close the door. In my face. Like she owns the place." 

Lynn began beating on the closed door. "Open up! Now! Get your no talking ass out here! It is most 
definitely time to meet ... your ... Maker!" Lynn bellowed with effort, tired from the alcohol floating in her cells 
and the exertion necessary to scare the crap out of a small child. 

Yet, there was no answering movement, no whimper of fright, nothing. Droplets of sweat ran down 
the door, catching on the knob, as Lynn suctioned her ear against it in an attempt to hear anything. She 
quickly stood up and gripped the doorknob, which didn't budge. Instead, her hand slipped around the cold, 
oily metal coated in her sweat. Lynn remembered the crowbar she kept in her bedroom in case burglars 
broke into the house. She ran to the room, grabbed the bar, then ran back to pry the door from the frame. 




ttttMMHHHBE^HimKn 



"Playa del Coco," Apokalyptik, Digital Print 



21 



Once the door was open, Lynn took stock of the room. Item A: No child. Item B: Open window 
(inviting burglars). Item C: No overnight bag. Lynn turned and stalked downstairs to the telephone. 

"Julie, Martha is missing." 

Julie's heart dropped. She'd gone to bed for the few hours between jobs dreading having to make so 
much up to her child, but this brought spiky tears to her eyes. 

"Mom, what do you mean missing? Where is she? She's six for Christ's sakes!' Julie whisper 
screamed. 

"All I know is that your daughter packed a bag and left from the upstairs window. A pedophile prob- 
ably picked her up and has chopped her to bits. Ironic, really, if you think about it." 

Julie slammed the phone down on the trollish glee emitting from the receiver. She called her father's 
office. 

"Hello, Sizemore Security, Jerry speaking." 

Her father's business tone calmed Julie. "Dad, Martha's missing." 

Jerry sighed. "Where do you think she is?" 

Julie sat down on the lab stool by the phone. "Well, I hope she's at school, but if I call them and they 
find out she ran away, they might take her away. I know Dr. Bartley won't let me leave, and mom is in no 
shape to look for her." 

Jerry thought for a moment. "Call her friend's house. That one down the street that Lynn hates so 
much, the Vietnamese one. Martha is a smart girl; I bet she went there." 

Julie started to cry. "Dad, I don't know her last name. How can I call there?" 

Jerry cleared his throat. Julie cringed at the tone in his voice, no longer business like, now suppress- 
ing sadness. "Julie, I've never really stuck my nose into how you raise your child. I know your mother is not 
the best role model. But, I know Martha will be fine. Remember when I took her in the woods to teach her 
how to camp? She picked it up like she was a little squirrel." Jerry sighed. "Besides, she sneaks over to 
Sue's house most everyday after dinner, just to get away from Lynn. Her mother's name is Thu Ngyen. 
She's a very nice woman; you met her at that open house." 

Julie's hope woke. "Dad, I'm scared to death. I'll call Thu. Thanks." She hung up, sharply enough 
to make the phone jingle in the cradle. She swiped at the tears on her face, determined to control her emo- 
tions. "This isn't the time," Julie thought, then picked up the phone to call Information for Thu's number. 

Meanwhile, the day passed with very little to mention. Jerry dispatched security guards and chewed 
many Turns. Lynn drank and baked a celebratory chocolate cake for herself, in honor of the brat being eaten 
by wolves in the wilderness. Julie spent most of her day chewing her bottom lip, trying not to cry as her boss 
said no to her request to leave work early. Pride kept her from telling him why. She'd finally reached Thu 
after lunch. Thu told her that Martha was fine and that she had tried calling optical companies all day looking 
for Julie. "I didn't want you to worry, Julie." Julie finally allowed her tears to fall and told Thu about her 
mother, the drinking, everything. Thu had only one question for her. 

"Will you come tomorrow for dinner?" 

"Yes, I have the day off." Julie's tone brightened. She needed a friend in the worst way, anything to 
get out of Grandma's house. 

Martha had a great day. Ms. Manner gave her a new book, A Wrinkle in Time, to read, even though 
it was for bigger boys and girls. During recess, Martha scrutinized the playground, looking for shelter. The 
thought of staying another night at Sue's made her tummy drop because she knew they'd find her there. She 
decided on the mound-shaped jungle gym on soft grass. She looked at the sky, playing amateur meteorolo- 
gist, checking out the cloud patterns for any hint of rain, like her grandpa had taught her. She saw none. 

After school ended, as all the kids ran to the line of yellow buses, Martha hid out in the cloakroom of 
her classroom. She heard Ms. Manner talking to another teacher. Her voice sounded like bells. 

"I don't know what to do. She won't speak at all, and the speech-language pathologist is already 
overloaded as it is. Her mother seems nice, but very tired. She'd very good at communicating through mime, 
and her mother hinted that stuttering is the underlying problem. I think there is more." 

Martha knew she had to change schools. The act of opening her mouth caused her heart to race 
and sparkles to form in front of her eyes. She couldn't do it. She didn't need to do it. 

After a while, Ms. Manner left. Martha sneaked out of the cloakroom, past the janitor's closet, and 
out the double doors to the playground. She made a beeline in the softening dusk to the monkey bars, like 
she was rushing for home base in a game of tag. The parking lot was empty. She had thought about just 
staying inside, but she was worried that late at night, they'd lock her in for the weekend. She had no food or 
water in there, but she could find something outside, even if she had to find her way back to Sue's. 

Martha sat under the peeling, red and gray metal bars, Indian style. She pulled her overnight bag to 



22 



her side, clutching it. It felt hard and lumpy, unlike her rolled clothing usually felt in the bag. She opened it up 
and saw a brown paper bag and a note. 

"Little one, here is some food. You can come here anytime, but we understand why you couldn't 
tonight. We love you. Thu." 

"So that's Sue's mom's name," Martha thought. She opened the bag and saw a small bowl of what 
turned out to be rice and lemony beef, along with two small thermoses. One held more of the broth from the 
night before; the other held now warm milky tea. Martha ate heartily, tears running down her face. Then she 
wiped her face off with her washcloth, using the tears as a cleanser. Then she dry-brushed her teeth and 
went to sleep, using her bag as a pillow. In her midget hand she loosely clasped her scissors like the arm of 
a teddy bear. 

Martha woke up to something banging against her little open-air hut. A squirrel had come out for the 
night to open a nut above her head. Martha watched it for a while, then looked at her red watch: 2:25 a.m. 

"This squirrel should be in bed. I should be in bed," she thought drowsily. Martha considered her 
grandmother's all encompassing anger. 

"Mom calls her God all the time." Martha's thoughts quickly became confusing. She saw the squirrel 
and thought of her grandfather taking her to the woods to teach her what she could and could not eat in a 
forest. She looked at the monkey bars and thought of how she climbed the stairs, crawling, because that way 
she could get to her room quicker to get away from grandma. 

She thought about the first time that Grandma had scared her. Martha remembered that her Great- 
Grandfather was a mean man to her mom, yelling at her when she didn't bring him his drinks. Martha and 
her mom had lived there when she was little because Grandma was helping take care of him. She was four 
when he died; a lot of people came to the funeral, but no one cried, except for Martha. She cried because he 
used to give her candy from the counter at his store in Vermont. She was afraid that she'd never get to come 
back to Vermont since he died, but then she thought about Great-Grandma Martha still lived in her small 
house with the garden and knew she would be able to come back a lot. 

Grandma was sick at the funeral. She kept trying to walk up to the casket, where Great-Grandpa 
was, and she kept trying to kick it. She yelled a lot. She kept drinking something from a glass bottle, and 
Grandpa tried to take it away from her, so she hit him in the head with it. Finally, Great-Grandma Martha 
walked up and took Grandma out of the room. Baby Martha followed them out to the hall. 

In the hall, she saw her Grandma crying. "I can't do this. I'm glad he's dead, Ma. I wish he'd died 
before I was born." 

Great-Grandma Martha, usually sweet and rosy-cheeked, turned pale. "That's an awful thing to say 
at your own father's funeral. I raised you better. And I raised you better than to be a drunk. Go to that place 
we took you to after you had Julie. Get cleaned up. You are ruining your family, again." 

Baby Martha walked back into the big room with the flowers and the casket. She shuffled to her 
mother's side, then kissed her on the cheek. Julie looked over at Martha, smoothed her hair, and hugged 
her. "It'll be okay, honey. Grandma will get better now that he's gone. He was really mean to her." 

Grandma had been okay, at least for a little while after that. Then Martha had to lock her out of the 
house because Grandma kept yelling and hit her with a spoon. Martha waited until Lynn went to get the mail, 
then locked the door. She couldn't reach the phone to call Grandpa, like Ms. Manner taught her to do if she 
was scared, call someone to help. After Grandpa came home, Grandma hugged her and cried a lot and said 
stuff about needing to rest. Martha cried too, scared that Grandpa would be mad. He wasn't, but he buy her 
a little step stool to reach the phone. 

She looked at the stars and remembered her mother cooking a steak for her birthday, special, while 
she ate stupid noodle soup. She missed her mom. She lifted her chin, looking eerily like a miniature version 
of her mother, and thought, "I can handle Grandma. Grandpa and mom will help me." She picked up her bag 
and started walking home. 

The school was not far from home. She really didn't need to take a bus in the morning; she mostly 
did that to see the other kids. She knew the way and tried to whistle like her mom would when she washed 
her hair in the morning before work. She couldn't quite get it; she was missing a couple of teeth, but she did 
get a feeble spray of spittle and notes. 

While Martha walked home, Jerry sat in his armchair, in a fog. He'd taken Lynn to Tidewater, 
Virginia's answer to problems that just won't go away. He'd deliberated about it at work, until a dim memory 
cleared in him mind. He remembered the last time he'd sent Lynn away so he could think. It had been six 
months before, when Martha locked Lynn out of the house. 

In his mind, Jerry walked up to the front door of his house, only to find a very drunk Lynn beating on 
the door. He tapped her on the shoulder, and she sharply turned to face him. 

"She locked me out. Why would she lock me out?" 



23 



Jerry worked up some courage when he heard Lynn's tone of confusing rather than anger. "Well, 
Lynn, she's scared. Last week in school they talked about safety in the home. What did you do?" 

Lynn sat on the stoop. "I was making dinner, and she came into the kitchen. When I saw her, I told 
her to go clean the table for dinner. After that, all I remember is being out here." 

Jerry sat next to his wife. She leaned her head against his shoulder, crying. "I can't do it anymore, 
Jerry. I don't even know what I need anymore. I don't mean to yell at her, but she never says anything back, 
and then that just makes me madder." 

Jerry smoothed his wife's hair. He stood up and pulled her up with him. "Lynn, let's find someone to 
help. Maybe you need a vacation again." 

Lynn just nodded. Jerry unlocked the door; they walked into the house to find the table cleaned for 
dinner, all of the pot handles turned inward on the stove (to prevent spilling, Martha really took the safety talk 
seriously), and Martha asleep on the sofa. Jerry called Julie at work to tell her about his decision, and then 
called Tidewater. Again. 

After he cleared the memory, Jerry called Tidewater, but worried about its effectiveness. So far, Lynn 
had stayed there ten months, off and on, for the past three years. Jerry didn't know what else to do, and he 
refused to watch Lynn breakdown one more kid, like she had Julie. 

Jerry settled more into his armchair, remembering his decision at work earlier that day, not regretting 
it, exactly, more hoping it mattered at all. He almost stood to go out and look for Martha, street by street. His 
heart hurt. 

When Martha got home, she found her mother dozing on the front step, waiting for her. The ex- 
hausted look was gone, tight worry lines around the eyes and dried lines of tears on the cheeks replaced 
bone-tired and weary. Martha tiptoed up to the window. Inside, her grandfather sat in his chair, reading the 
paper, smoking. Her grandmother was nowhere to be found. 

"Honey, come inside." Her mother had woken. She smiled calmly, no sign of anger, that would 
come later once the situation sank in to mingle with the fear Julie had felt throughout the day. 

"Well, squirt, how was your constitutional? Did you have a bit of a French leave?" Her grandfather's 
voice sounded like the smoke from a pipe smells: rich, heavy, smooth, but Martha could hear relief, an 
unraveling of tightness that had been building all day. When she heard the relief in his voice, she looked at 
her sneakers, trying not to cry, trying to clear the fact she'd scared them out of her mind. "We missed you. 
Your grandma went on a trip, too." 

"Yes, honey, she had to go to the hospital. She's sick, but she will be okay. Do you remember when 
Great-Grandpa died and she got sick? This is like that," Julie soothed her child, sliding her mother-voice over 
her child like a warm milk bath. 

Martha just nodded, then sat beside her mother. She felt her throat tightening, the tears beginning 
again, the guilt bubbling up to the surface. She thought about the afghan and decided to throw away her 
scissors. She didn't need them anymore. 

"Come inside, honey. We'll get ready for bed. Tomorrow, we are having dinner at Sue's house; won't 
that be fun?" 

"Okay, mom. That sounds great," Martha croaked. 



24 



Camelot 

by Carmela Orsini 

"Hey, Artie, got any plans this weekend?" Tristan had asked him at the office that Tuesday. Of 
course he didn't, and Tristan knew it before he ever asked. The group of men sat hovelled around files, 
calculators, and guidebooks. Tax time is always crazy for an accountant, and these guys could see the light 
at the end of the tunnel. 

"No, no... I don't think I have anything for sure, you know." 

Lance had walked into the cubicle, high-fiving Arthur, like everyone always did. "Did I hear you say 
that you're free this weekend, pal?" 

"Yes." 

Lance strutted into his leather seat between Tristan and Arthur. "Well, my friend, there's this girl over 
in marketing that's been asking us about you. Gavin, you know her?" 

"No, I don't believe so." 

A broad smile stretched over Tristan's face. "Oh, man. She's great. Maybe we can hook you two up 
this weekend - you know... blow off all the steam we've worked up this week. You'd have a great time. 
Whaddya say?" 

"Yeah, and she's dying to meet you, Artie," Percy agreed from the coffee maker in the corner. 

Arthur smiled, a little shocked at his coworker's enthusiasm for his sake. They know, he thought, 
they know my longing to find my one true love and sweep her off her feet, just like in the fairy tales. They're 
looking out for me, trying to help me along on my quest. Gavin: the blind date of my life! He could tell just by 
her name that he would love her. 

"Are you sure it's me she was asking about?" 

"Would we lie to you about something like this? I'm telling you, she's dying to meet you." Tristan 
always was a good young man, very clean. 

"Do you know that French place downtown? She loves French food." Percy came from a nice family. 

"Easy, guys, I don't know if Artie's got that type of money. What do you say Art?" Everyone loved 



Lance. 



"If you guys think she's worth it, I can manange. Yes, I'll manage just fine. 
"That a'boy, Artie. I knew you'd have it in you." 



Arthur rushed home from Landerson Financial Advisory that Friday, one day after the famous April tax 
deadline. Most of the guys he worked with were temps or interns or entry-level with plans for the big time. 
Arthur was past that at this point. Too old to be an intern, too young to be the bigwig sitting pretty at the top. 
His large frame could have been intimidating, but his quite demeanor counter balanced his presence. But he 
always smiled. Not confidently, but smile he did. Not much got to him on the surface. 

/ won't call Mother tonight. She'll get over it - that'll give me a few extra minutes. Can't be late. 
Arthur climbed the stairs to his third floor apartment, searching for his keys lost in his coat pocket. He placed 
his briefcase on the island in the kitchen and watered his plant next to the sink. That plant had been with him 
for two and a half years - ever since those weird people moved into the apartment next to his and started 
making everything smell funny. 

Aren't you supposed to name your plant? I should name my plant. He almost reached out to pet the 
leaves but pulled his hand back just before it had the chance to make contact. He chuckled at his gesture. 
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a piece of paper protruding from his briefcase. Odd, he 
thought. Carefully lifting the latches on each side, Arthur proceeded with a hint of excitement. The paper, he 
discovered, was a black and white photocopy of Richard Simmons with Arthur's face superimposed over the 
head. Richard, or Arthur, rather, dawned a tight, striped tank top and short shorts, which accentuated the 
falsely enlarged pouch between the man's legs. Someone had taken a red Sharpie to the picture. "Didn't 
know you had it in you, Artie!" Arrows pointing the inappropriateness. He stared at the image from his over- 
worked coworkers, torn as to what to do with it. Part of him wanted to rip it to pieces and burn the shreds. 
Instead, he hung the image on his empty refrigerator and proceeded to get ready for his blind date. 

Before leaving, he stole one quick look in the mirror. In spite his best efforts, Arthur's collared shirt 
and plaid tie screamed straight from the office and his navy blazer was a size too small. His thick glasses 
resting awkwardly on a round, broad nose didn't help. His whole ensemble was quite inappropriate for such 



25 




"Cafe," Apokalyptik, Digital Print 

a fancy French restaurant filled with black ties, black dresses, and white tablecloths. Fine dining was foreign 
to his type. But Arthur went, regardless. He could just as easily have been at work. His large thigh shook his 
leg nervously under the little table, making the glow from the candle cast dark shadows over the wall next to 
him. He reached a hand to his thinning curly hair - giving it a little pat. No gray, thank God. Just a little thin, 
that's all. 

"Won't be long now," he whispered to himself as the waitress approached his table. "Uh, miss, I've 
decided on a wine for my special lady friend and myself. I think I'll go with the house suggestion of the La 
Mission Haut Brion 1990 Pinot Noir. Spare no cost for my lady friend." The waitress gave a grin. Of course 
she would. I just ordered a three hundred dollar bottle of wine. If he was ordering for his wife, he might have 
been cute, but he wasn't ordering for his wife. He pulled out his wallet and grabbed one of his business 
cards. When he started at Landerson's Financial Advisory eleven years earlier, straight out of school, they 
had ordered him five hundred business cards. He mailed one to his mom, kept a dozen in a rack on his desk 
and a few in his wallet. The other 469 of them rested in their original box in the top drawer of his filing cabi- 
net. He was secure and comfortable in his little job - no threat of being replaced, but no hope of a raise. He 
wrote his home phone number on the back of the card in his best handwriting with his black felt pen. After 
approving the work, he tucked it in his shirt pocket and nodded his head with a smile. 

Yes, tonight would be the night he would find his soul mate. It didn't matter that he couldn't really 
afford the outrageous prices at Chez Frangais: his lady would surely be worth every penny. He would spend 
every dime and every breath he had for her, this woman he has created in his mind — an illusion fabricated 
from the tales of his co-workers. The waitress returned with the wine, opening it and replacing the cork. 

"Thank you." 

Arthur picked up his menu, filled with words that meant little to him. Fish, not steak. Steak would be 
too uncouth with his fancy wine. "French. I wish I spoke French. Then, I could actually pronounce what I'm 
ordering. Wouldn't that be something?" Arthur chuckled to himself. He glanced at his watch. She was 
fashionably late. Of course she was. His lady had to be fashionable. Thirty minutes is far more than fashion- 



26 



able. Should I wait to pour the wine until she gets here? I'm awful thirsty now, and that little taste the wait- 
ress gave me was such a tease. No, what am I saying. Of course I can wait. If she got here and saw I 
already drank her bottle of wine, she'd turn right back around and leave. 

Arthur quickly downed his decorative glass of water, little dribbles dampening his tie in between his 
large gulps. Sweat drops were slowly starting to appear on his broad forehead. An old distinguished gentle- 
man crossed the dance floor and sat at the piano, smoothly removing his white gloves. The tune, although 
quite foreign to Arthur, pleased him nonetheless. Tapping his fingers to the rhythm, although off slightly, 
calmed his nerves, but the sweat stains could not be stopped from forming. Small rings were beginning to 
penetrate his underarms. Smaller drops were faintly noticeable on his back, despite the protection of his 
coat. 

Without thinking, Arthur reached across the table and snatched the glass of water in front of the other 
seat. He downed it with as much fortitude as he had the first. A small drop of sweat rolled down his face. His 
tongue rudely reached towards it. Perhaps I'll have just one glass of wine. If I'm sipping the wine then it 
might look like I've done this before, like I'm suave and collected. 

The cork was stuck. Arthur resorted to his napkin to help him pull it out, spilling a few of the dark 
contents onto his white table cloth. Just one glass. His moist hand reached for the wine glass in front of him 
but wavered. The red liquid spilt into his empty water glass. It still only counts as one. I guess I'm more 
nervous than I thought. 

He checked his watch again. The nine o'clock hour approached like a bad omen. An hour late. She 
could be lost. Or worse. What if she got hurt in some sort of accident? Or maybe there was some sort of 
emergency. Surely Tristan and the other guys would have given her my cell number. She would call if there 
was a problem. The pianist began playing a tune Arthur recognized. His kid sister obsessed over Fredrick 
Chopin. The quartet for her wedding played A Nocturne as an overture. Morbid, but soothingly unnoticeable. 
Arthur poured another water glass of wine. The waitress returned. 

"No, thank you, miss, I'm not ready to order," Arthur rushed. 

"Excuse me, sir. I apologize for interrupting, but the gentlemen at that table over there asked me to 
give you this." She pointed across the dance floor to a larger table. Arthur gasped as Tristan, Percy, and 
Lance waved at him jovially. She placed a white note card on the table and left. Arthur could feel his heart 
beat against his temple. His sweaty hand tried not to shake as he picked the card up to read, hoping not to 
look too frazzled in front of the guys: 

Artie! Hope you liked our little joke. Why don't you come over and join us? We'll even buy you 
another bottle. -The Guys. 

Once again, Arthur played the fool. A jester in a court of young, rich princes with nothing more to do 
than torment him. He read the note four times. He watched the guys happy smiles turn to looks of concern. 
He threw some money on the table, grabbed his bottle of wine, and walked out the door in search of a cab. 



The neon yellow of the Waffle House sign reflected in Arthur's glasses. / wonder, is this the Waffle 
House out by the interstate or that one over on Tribuit Street? 

"You can let me off here." The cab stopped and Arthur paid. He was pretty sure he left an exces- 
sively large tip, but he didn't have the energy to argue with himself. He tried to take a step forward, but his 
leg gave way a little. He couldn't hold red wine like he could ten years ago. 

"Welcome to Waffle House." The third shift's unenthusiastic. With a wave of his hand, Arthur landed 
hard into the first booth he came. Without thinking he grabbed the ashtray at the end of the table and flipped 
it over repeatedly in his hand, refusing to yield his eyes from its glare. 

"Hi, I'm Ginger. I'll be your waitress. Are you ready to order?" 

Good God, this girl talks way too fast. "Just coffee for now thanks. Regular with lots of cream." He 
refused to look up. She walked away as bored as she had approached. "Lots of cream," he repeated to 
himself. His fingertips drummed the bottom of the ashtray. / should have been a smoker. Smokers wouldn't 
let people push them around, like some dumb idiot - 

A gloriously adorned hand with perfectly manicured fingernails reached across his line of vision 
interrupting his thought. The hand carrying a plain mug retracted only to return once more with a hand full of 
cream. Lots of cream. Two large gold rings, one with a green jewel, and one with a turquoise gem, graced 
her thumb and forefinger. Her bright red fingernail polish screamed, "I'm not really a waitress." Seven gold 
jangles clanked at her wrists. Clank. Clank. Beautiful. Harmonious. Her skin, the color of his cream. He 
couldn't help but stare at it and nothing else as the hand retracted to a uniformed hem. 



27 



Arthur's hand flinched. He wanted to grab that glorious hand and hold it tenderly. Kiss it - as a knight 
would have when he greeted his lady in waiting. Gavin who? His one true love was being held captive by the 
night shift at the Waffle House. Arthur was her knight in shinning armor, ready to rescue her from her evil 
captors. 

"You gonna want anything else?" 

Arthur's eyes could not move from her hand. Stall, keep her coming back. You love her. "Yes, as a 
matter of fact, I would love a glass of chocolate milk as well, please." 

She turned without a word. That hand, no, that hand must return. It will, you fool. She must get the 
drink you ordered. A cigarette, a cigarette would impress her. Make me more mysterious. With the long, 
white stick hanging from my lips at a funny angle. Like I've got something heavy on mind or some stress that 
can only be eased by a puff. It'd give me a real hard edge. Show her I'm not as soft as I look. 

The hand returned with the clear glass of brown. This time, she said nothing. Arthur moved his glaze 
up her arm, toned but not muscular. Perfect. 

"Uh, Ginger was it? Can I trouble you for some toast as well?" 

"Anything else." 

"Well, no, I suppose toast will just about cover it. Thank you." 

She left quickly. Toast would clearly delay her a few moments longer than the drinks had, so Arthur 
distracted himself with his coffee. His pudgy little fingers picked up a cream and smoothly decapitated it, 
spilling its contents into the murky waters. And then another. And another. And another, until all the creams 
Lady Ginger had brought him had served their sentence. He thought he was angry with the gang from work, 
but the helpless little creams seemed to release the stress. Both the mug of coffee and the glass of choco- 
late milk were filled to the rim, threatening to overflow. Can't have this. He carefully brought each glass to 
the edge of the table and leaned his head down until his lips were on the rim of the chocolate milk. 

"Urn, here's your toast." 

He straightened up too quickly, certainly beyond disgraced, too embarrassed to look in her direction. 
His ears lit up, turning as red as her beautiful fingernails. Her bracelets jangled as she reached in front of him 
with the little plate. Their ringing hit him like a light bulb. He'll show those jerks at work. He'll come in with 
stories of his real hot date - Ginger, the veela from Waffle House. They think they're so cute, what would 
they do if they saw me with her? Yes, he, Arthur, would prove they could not get to him. He could be in on 
the joke. He could love her like he loved her hand, even if it were for one night. 

"Will this be all?" 

"For now, yes ma'am. Thank you." No, don't let this be her last look. You must get her attention. 
But you can't possibly order anything else now. You just said you didn't need anything else. Think, Arthur. 
Think. Make eye contact. Look at her face at least. No. You big coward. Just finish your coffee and go 
home. Don't stoop to this level. 

Arthur obediently began sipping his cream filled mug. The ashtray stared at him mockingly. "Yes, I 
know." The coffee did not warm his throat, did not stop his large thigh from shaking beneath the table, did not 
ease the heavy weight in his stomach. Yet Arthur drank, he drank with as much gusto as he had with the 
three hundred dollar bottle of wine earlier that night. A dollar twenty, three hundred dollars, made no differ- 
ence now. He glanced down the line of tables. A grizzled, elderly man sat at the bar in dirty overalls and a 
hunting cap, great mobs of gray hair poking out from underneath the dirty hat. His nose was too crooked for 
his face, but it matched his teeth quite nicely. His hands shook a little with each bite of waffle he brought to 
his dried out lips. He was tan, wrinkled, smelly, and remarkable. Everything I'll never be. No one could trick 
him like they trick me. 

"More coffee?" 

What? Can this be? She returns on her own free will. 

"Yes, please." 

"And cream?" 

"When you get the chance, it's not important." 

"Sure, no prob." 

"Can I trouble you for some breakfast?" He turned back to the hand on the hip, moving this time past 
the niceness of her arm, towards the plump, yet firm chest hiding behind the dirty buttoned up Waffle House 
shirt. 

"Uh, yeah, that's what I'm here for." 

"Yes, yes. Of course. Forgive me. How about that All-Star Breakfast combo? With scrambled eggs, 
not fried." He was captivated by the image. 

"Bacon or sausage?" 



28 



"How about both?" Both indeed. 

"Sure." As she turned to leave, Arthur caught a glimpse of the other key body part. Perfect, yet 
again. He smiled and turned back to his ash tray. 

"Geenger, bring me another one of them little cartons of milk, will ya girl?" the old man's voice grav- 
eled. 

"Sure, sweetie. Being adventurous tonight aren't you?" 

"I have to come home with something on my breath or Nina will think I weren't out with some pretty 
little thing." 

"You mean you tell her about me?" 

"Girl, she told me to invite her to the weddin." The old man chuckled with difficulty. Arthur's revenge 
laughed back. 

Enraged, Arthur devoured his toast, unaware of his own famine. He was betrayed. Besides, he had 
not eaten dinner. He had no chance. She was sweet and flirted with older men that possessed all the 
qualities Arthur knew did not exists within himself. I'm just a fool. I'll always be the butt of the joke. 

Ginger returned to his table with the combo. He turned his head, unable to look at her gorgeous 
hand. He just stared at his new rival. His hangover began to set in already. "Need anything else?" 

"Not right now," he said coolly. As soon as her footsteps had lessened in his ears, Arthur tore into his 
food. He didn't stop to syrup the waffle; he didn't stop to pepper the eggs; he didn't stop to butter the toast. 
He ate like a madman, though he felt sick. For every slow, shaky bite the old man forced to his lips, Arthur 
took ten. He ate until there was nothing left. 

"Wow, you must have been really hungry!" 

"Yes, I was. Two more waffles, please." 

"Okay." He still could not look at her. His gaze could not let go of the old man. He just wanted to eat 
and eat and eat until he exploded. Then he would go home and finally name his damn plant, finally become 
the pathetic being his friends wanted him to be, finally stoop to the old, lonely crazy man - having never 
known his own true love. 

The old man started pulling dollar bills out of his scruffy plastic wallet. He had not waited for a check. 
He knew his order well. The five one-dollar bills stood remarkably on their side just as he had tossed them 
down. Simply putting his wallet back in his pocket was a momentous task for his old hands. He reached over 
and grabbed his cane that had been hanging on the stool next to his. 

"So long Ray, Burt, Geenger. I'll see y'all tomorrow night." 

Two men replied various remarks of "See ya, Merle." "Bye, Merle." 

"Play me a good one on your way out, sweetie," Ginger's voice hung in the air like the scent of 
perfume amongst all the grease. 

"You know I will." 

The old mans legs stepped just a few inches in front of one another. As he passed Arthur's table, the 
old man gave him a wink and a little wave, tapping his cane loudly on the floor with the other hand. By the 
time he reached the jukebox by the door, Ginger had cleared the money and dishes and wiped the surface 
clean. Arthur couldn't watch him anymore. He returned his attention to the ashtray. The music started and 
the bells on the door jingled, signifying his enemy's departure from the scene. What the hell was that little 
wink thing about? Who does he think he is? At least he played a good song; I love Bruce Springsteen. 

"Okay, here are your waffles. Are you going to order anything else?" 

"No, this will do it." 

"Well, I brought your check. Do you mind paying out? I can't take my cigarette break until all my 
customers have paid." 

The jukebox sang, "I just can't face my self alone again." 

Arthur started sweating all over again. His heart pounded at his temples, in his ears, in his throat. He 
felt a new wave of confidence, but he couldn't tell if it was from the old man's wink or the fact that the old man 
was now gone. Be brave, Arthur. You need to do this. What will those guys do to you if you don't! You can't 
be pathetic forever. Enough. "How about this? If I pay now, then you lend me a cigarette and let me join you 
on your break." Are you insane! You sound like a babbling fool. Besides, a cigarette, you'll just go out there 
and make a fool of yourself. She just thinks you're some dumb customer, Arthur. 

"Sure, I guess." Could it fee... Arthur stared out the door for a few moments, unable to move for his 
shock. The old man was inching his way down a dirt road just beyond the sidewalk encircling the parking lot. 

"Alright, how much do I owe you?" 

"$18.43." How the hell does one person spend eighteen dollars at a Waffle House? He could hear 
her tapping her foot to the music. 



29 



"You ain't a beauty but, yeah, you're alright, and that's alright with me." 

Arthur moved his glance from her hand to her face for the first time. My god, she was beautiful. Her 
dazzling red hair was styled frizzy beyond any point of natural. Her long, thin eyebrows arched like the back 
of a scared cat with a cute little mole just under her left eye. The red from her fingernails echoed in the red of 
her lips. Purple eye shadow and bright pink blush stained her creamy skin. And then she smiled at him. Her 
parted lips revealed the most glamorous smile in the whole restaurant. She had the face of a celebrity - a 
Garbo sitting in a diner just waiting to be discovered, and Arthur was feeling like an explorer. Without lowering 
his stare, Arthur pulled out his wallet and handed her one of the fifties he had planned to use for Gavin. 

"Keep the change," he said with out a thought. She was truly spectacular. What a story she would 
make. 

"Geez, thanks, mister." She could be bought, if it came to that. She had her price. She would be 
worth it, too. 

"Sure. No problem." 

"The door's open but the ride ain't free." Arthur thought back to the beginning of the night. He saw 
Richard with a fake penis and his face. He saw his plant, his only companion in an empty room. He saw his 
clean, little apartment. The white tablecloths. The red wine. The three hundred dollars he spent there. 
Tristan's teeth as he smiled. Percy's head turning red from laughter. Lance waving politely. The yellow cab. 
The yellow Waffle House sign. The red fingernails. The red lips. His fifty he spent here. 

"Is menthol okay? That's all I have." 

Arthur took a sip of his cream filled chocolate milk. He turned from her to look at the door. About a 
quarter a mile down the road, he could see the old man struggling towards home. He looked at the bells on 
the door. Then at the jukebox. He brought his hands together and rubbed his palms. He wasn't sweating 
anymore. He had lost so much already that night, money the least of his losses. He suddenly felt the urge to 
talk to Merle. How could he come here every night and face this life? It was a lesson Arthur was willing to 
learn. He had lost a lot, alright. But for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel like a loser. 

"It's a town of losers. We're pulling out of here to win. " 

"Actually, Ginger. I don't smoke." With a burst, he was out the door, the bells clattering loudly 
against the glass. He ran as fast and awkwardly as he could towards the old man, nearly stumbling to the 
ground just past the parking lot. As he reached the dirt road, he started calling. 

"Hey, excuse me." He was breathing heavily, gasping for enough air to call out. "Sir, excuse me." 

Merle stopped, turned to face Arthur, and smiled and toothless grin. Arthur stopped just short of 
where the old man stood and bent over, grabbing his knees and gasping for breath. Merle just brought his 
cane together, grasping it gently with both hands, waiting patiently. 

Still struggling, Arthur stood up slowly. He reached a hand over to the old man's hands, using the 
cane for support. 

"I just have to ask - do you regret it? Do you feel like you missed anything by not selling out? I gotta 
know." Arthur could stand now, on his own. 

The old man turned back down the road and began walking, Arthur trudging along just at his heels. 
Merle tuned and said with confidence, "Young man, you're going to be just fine." And the two men struggled 
side by side down the seldom-used road, each journeying home. 



30 




'No Parking," Apokalyptik, Digital Print 



31 



The Case of the Rotten Potato 

by Dave Williams 

When I was a kid this would have seemed like a dream job. Nearly every day some goofy looking 
teenager comes in here and asks for an application. "Uh...is y'all hiring?" We aren't hiring of course. It really 
doesn't take much to keep this place running. Everything kind of works on its own. I have actually left hours 
early without anyone ever figuring it out. Then that bell rings. They say that soldiers, after returning from war 
can still hear the gunshots or the bombs exploding. This is how I feel about that God forsaken bell. It isn't so 
much a bell as an electronic whistling sound. If there is an actual gate to Hell, this would be the doorbell. 
REEE-REEE-REEE!!! The tone has to be louder and higher pitched than the other machines to ensure that it 
is heard over everything else and that is quite an accomplishment in this place. If Satan has an alarm clock 
this is what it sounds like. 

The noise, that noise, will eventually be the death of me. I have been working in this place for nearly 
a year now and I still haven't gotten used to it. Of course the headaches are a little less frequent now, but I 
still wake up in the middle of the night hearing those sounds. The beeps, the bells, and the blasts. How 
could anyone ever get used to this? I come here six days a week and hide out in my little room, away from all 
of the beeps, the bells, and the blasts. One positive aspect of working here is that it has gotten me even 
deeper into music. I play CDs at full volume just to drown out that God-awful noise. I listen to music and 
read. I have read more in the past year than I read in the first twenty-three years of my life combined. So it 
isn't all bad, just most of it. 

The mall is often packed on Saturdays, so that is when we are most crowded, especially around the 
holidays. Teenagers in ridiculous hip-hop clothes encircle the dancing game like vultures around a fallen 
gazelle. This game wasn't around when I was their age so I really don't understand the draw. People look so 
stupid when they dance. That is why most people do it in dark nightclubs and not in the middle of a bright 
neon-lit arcade. Still, they circle that thing in groups ranging from four to thirty, depending on what time of 
day, every single day. It costs them fifty cents to dance twice. Some of these kids must spend up to fifty 
bucks in here on any given day. These machines aren't cheap. They say that children are our future. Well, 
the future looks pretty bleak. 

Often fathers bring their children in, either when Mommy is shopping, or when Daddy has weekend 
custody. The fathers gravitate towards skee-ball or air hockey. They were born in a much simpler time, but 
the kids want to dance or ride simulated race horses. Some fathers are dignified and play video games with 
their children to win tickets and buy toys. These are the fathers who rarely give me much trouble. They are 
content to spend quality time with the fruits of their loins, but then there are the other kinds of fathers. These 
fathers give their children eight tokens each and keep twenty for themselves. REEE-REEE-REEE!!! "Yo, that 
football game ate my token." There have been so many moments when I wanted to grab these men by their 
faces and say, "If you were throwing a real football outside, you wouldn't have these problems and your 
children might not end up as brain dead as you." They pose as loving fathers, enjoying their children's 
interest, but they are really just full-grown children wasting my time. Their kids are the kids that grow up to be 
the guys talking on a cell phones in the movie theater, or the ladies in the front of the checkout line who 
refuse to accept that a coupon has expired. These are the morons of the future. 

Then there are the mothers who just didn't know when to quit. They walk in with seven kids, probably 
each with his or her own missing paternal influence. It never fails that one of these little rug rats tries to rip 
me off. REEE-REEE-REEE!!! "That clown game took my twenty dollars." Then their younger, stickier sibling 
corroborates immediately, "Yeah, it took ten from me." When I first started I would grant any request as long 
as they would leave me alone, but lately I have found that confronting ten-year-olds and catching them in 
their lies is a great way to pass the time. "Kid, that clown game has been unplugged since Ronald Reagan 
was in office. If you put twenty bucks in there, you deserved to lose it." This only makes me happy for a short 
period of time because, within seconds, here comes Big Mama. "Sir." Using a formal address like "Sir" is 
intended to prove that this woman is indeed high class and not just some bloated baby factory looking for a 
new way to ignore her many, many kids while she shops for a brand new pair of soon to be stained 
sweatpants. It isn't all her fault though. Somewhere there are seven dead beat dads who were once desper- 
ate enough to buy her a bottle of Boons Farm and spend ten to thirty minutes alone with her. "That machine 
took my daughter's tokens and she wants them back." It is one thing when a kid tries to get a free game. It 
simply means that they are mischievous; lots of kids are like that. However, It is truly pathetic when a middle 
aged woman tries to rip off a video game arcade for quarters. These are the women in my life. 

We also have regulars. Bars have regulars. It would be quite the sociological experiment to find out 



32 



how many arcade regulars become bar regulars later on in life. How many make the transition from simply 
numbing their brains into actually killing them? I used to work at a bar where the same ten guys came in 
everyday for happy hour. Arcade regulars come in every day, but there is no happy hour. In my opinion, 
every hour is as miserable as the next. Our regulars play the fighting games. Four or five of them at a time 
surround the screen and cheer each other on. A couple of times I have had to break up an actual fight, which 
wasn't extremely hard, since the only parts of their bodies that received any exercise at all were their fingers 
and wrists. On the nights that I was forced to work a double shift and close the place, they wouldn't leave 
until I turned off the games. These zombies sat there playing these ridiculous fighting games until I shut off 
the lights. Then they simultaneously yelled "AWVWV." When I was their age I was out partying and trying to 
get laid. These guys are standing around in a distant corner of the mall tapping buttons and talking trash. My 
two employees are both regulars. They were just regulars who happened to get a job. The only difference 
between them and the other four guys sitting around the machine is that they are making six dollars every 
hour. I truly pitied these people. Though, as time has passed, I really don't think that I am much different 
than them at all. They are people just like you and me. They have the same wants and needs as most of us. 
They have dreams and aspirations. It is just that they like to watch cartoon characters beat each other silly 
for five hours a day every day. 

No matter how hard I fought it, I had to concede to the fact that I was no better than any of these 
freaks. It is funny how, as a kid in Sunday school, I learned to "Judge not lest ye be judged," yet churches 
are gossip central. The preacher may be saying "Judge not lest ye be judged," but the conversations in the 
pews are all about how Mrs. Johnson's hat looks tacky, or "That is Loretta's fourth husband. Bless her heart." 
I received far too many mixed moral messages growing up, so I had to figure it out for myself. I saw it as a 
choice. I could have judged not and not been judged, but I decided to go with judge and be judged. It just 
seemed a lot more natural. So, I look at my customers as drooling idiots, with the occasional psychopath 
mixed in, and they look at me as the creepy, surly, ever fattening, loser managing the arcade. The situation 
isn't pretty, but there is a comfort in its bitter honesty. 




'Untitled," Elizabeth Bedell, Acrylic 



33 



I used to be such a kindhearted person. I loved people. I respected people. I truly cared for my 
fellow human beings. After working here for a while, I am beginning to loathe humanity and it scares me. 
The next thing you know I will be voting Republican. Every once in a blue moon a sweet family will walk in. 
I'll stand there like a stalker and watch them play. The children aren't very familiar with the controls and the 
parents usually stick to skee-ball. I used to be around people like them all of the time instead of the cross 
eyed, brain dead lot that surrounds me these days. The only problem is that they never stick around. They 
play a couple of games and then they are gone. They are off to go play outside or visit their grandmother, or 
whatever it is that healthy, happy, respectable, American families do on a Saturday afternoon. I miss normal 
people. I miss people who read magazines that aren't about gaming and shower once a day. 

Todd doesn't look like he puts too much stock into personal hygiene. Todd is one of my regulars and 
I have grown a wee bit fond of him in many ways. The way that someone in solitary confinement would 
become fond of a cockroach. Todd is twenty years old and works at a fast food joint across the street. Some 
days he brings in a bag full of burgers and offers me some. Most of the time I am repulsed by the idea of 
actually ingesting anything that sweaty Todd put his hands on, but when I am really hungry I take a chicken 
sandwich. I hope that I don't come off as being too harsh when I say that Todd is one of our future homeless 
members of society. He is quite convincing when he begs for a free game and he has this preacher quality to 
his speech. Todd couldn't really be a preacher because he mumbles his words like Dustin Hoffman's charac- 
ter in "Dick Tracy," but I can definitely picture him downtown in fifteen years pestering tourists. "Ma'am, 
I... I... I'm a good Christian man. I just need a couple of dollars to get something to eat." Maybe this won't 
happen because Todd does go to college. 

I'll bet that one of his sweetheart grandparents had blown all of their hard earned savings to send him 
to our local college and he ditches class everyday to come here and play video games. One afternoon, when 
I had read an especially heart wrenching article about Brown V the Board Of Education, in the New Yorker, I 
actually gave Todd a long winded speech about how great it was that he was in school and how important it 
was that he cherished it and did a good job. After this conversation I was quite proud of young Todd and for a 
while there I had a newfound faith in humanity. It felt like the ending of an after school special. Then, later on 
that week, I was slightly disappointed when he handed me a sheet to fill out concerning one of his classes. 
Apparently, as a project, his class had to be involved in some kind of community service project. They could 
volunteer at the library, or work at the humane society walking the dogs. They could help build houses with 
Habitat For Humanity. They could even volunteer at their own church. So, Todd asked me if I would fill out a 
form that logged all of the hours of "community service" that he had done here at the arcade. "Man, you 
know I is always helping you move machines around and stuff. I gave him a long and disgusted look, filled 
out the form, and went back in to my room to listen to the Shins. Good luck finding adequate shelter in fifteen 
years Todd. The winters can be quite brisk. 

My other favorite regular is a sixteen year old kid named Jeremy. Jeremy is really into the dancing 
game but he still plays the fighting games whenever the mood strikes him. I knew kids like Jeremy growing 
up, hip hop kids who walked around the mall hitting on teen-age girls and giving out high fives left and right. 
For me, that kid was Craig Tolbert. He wore baggy clothes and had grotesque acne. Craig was about 
sixteen when I was twelve, and he would stroll around the mall all day in a gang of cigarette smoking pre- 
teens, shoplifting and hustling in the arcade. Craig still haunts the mall in my hometown, but now he man- 
ages the arcade. Don't think that the irony in that last sentence escapes me. I get it alright. I'm a loser just 
like him. Whatever, shut up. 

Jeremy startled me in my first week at work by being extremely forward. He would walk into my back 
room and tell me about his mall adventures. I would usually sit there and read while he went on and on about 
who got jumped and who couldn't dance. I thought that if I ignored him that he would go away, but that never 
happened. Every day Jeremy would walk in and hang out in the back room, talking about teen-agers and 
shoplifting. Some of his stories were quite compelling and after a while I would actually miss him on the days 
that he did not come by. Jeremy had been expelled from school for fighting, so he really had no other place 
to be. He would hop a bus from his grandma's place everyday and come hang out with me. I started to look 
at Jeremy as some kind of weird juvenile delinquent little brother that I had to look out for. I would hand him 
the keys to the games and let him do my job on Saturdays. It really worked out great for the both of us. He 
could impress all of his little friends by playing free games and I could go into the back and sleep off my 
hangover. 

I am twenty four years old and I manage the arcade in the mall. I have to be here seven days a 
week. On Tuesdays I do collections. I have to be here at six in the morning to crack open all of the machines 
and count all of the tokens from the previous week. That noise is not something that you want to hear ever, 
let alone at six in the morning. I count all of the tokens and then I go to the bank. The only reason that I have 



34 



not been fired yet is that no one else, outside of teen-age creeps, would ever take this job. The last two 
managers were caught stealing within a month of being hired. One of them was selling weed out of the back. 
Oddly enough, working at a video game arcade is appealing to people who smoke marijuana. Imagine that. 

My boss is the regional general manager. I think that he is Indian, but I have not yet been able to get 
an honest answer out of him. Out of pointless, obsessive curiosity, I have been trying to pin down where he 
was born. Once, on a truck ride to a hardware store, he mentioned that his father was from the Caribbean. I 
once knew a girl from Barbados who had very Indian features and an Indian accent. Every time I see 
Maurice I ask sly questions like, "Will you be going home for the holiday? How long is the flight?" and, "Y'all 
must have terribly hot summers, huh?" I could just ask him, but where is the fun in that? His name is 
Maurice, so maybe he's French. Isn't Maurice a French name? Maurice Chevallier, he was French right? 

Maurice pops in every once in a while to see how I'm doing and help me fix the machines. On 
Tuesdays he comes by to check my numbers for the week. At first he would drop by to help out, but lately he 
has been popping in just to catch me sleeping. His accent has become unbearable. I'm no racist, so I won't 
let my hatred of the sound of Maurice's voice initiate a sweeping hatred for all people of western Asian 
descent, but I hate the sound of that man's voice. "Timothy, what are you doing?" Are you back here sleep- 
ing, man?" He knows the answer to that question. He shouldn't have to ask. "I pay you to manage this store 
and you are back here reading and listening to music." This isn't a store. This is Hell, and you sir are begin- 
ning to look like you are growing horns. "These games are falling apart, man. You should put down the 
magazine and go fix the games." I would love to Maurice, it is just that if I turn off this CD player and walk 
outside onto the arcade floor and hear that noise, those beeps, and bells, and blasts, I might lose my mind 
and end up pistol whipping a thirteen year old Eminem fan with a plastic gun. Maurice doesn't seem to mind 
the noise and those awful lights. He could sit around the arcade all day with a screwdriver and a set of keys. 
I, on the other hand, wish I was dead after only ten minutes. Maybe it is a cultural thing. 

Maurice is going through a divorce and where, at first I felt sorry for him, now I find it hilarious. Sure, 
it makes him crabby, but I kind of enjoy those days when he comes in and yells at me because I get to yell 
back and most days I need to blow off some steam. He can't fire me since I am the first manager that he has 
had in two years that doesn't steal. The story is that his wife began seeing another man nearly a year ago 
and now she wants a divorce. They have two teen-age daughters and he remains in close contact with her. 
He is trying to win her back. One thing that is certain about Maurice is that he loves the ladies. On Tuesdays 
when he comes by and we are not yelling at each other he likes to tell me all about his personal life. "I watch 
a lot of porno movies to pick up new moves, man. My wife she knows that no one is better, because I know 
new moves." The combination of his accent and the ridiculous things that he says makes him one of the 
most entertaining people that I have ever met. If he could learn to leave me alone more often we could really 
get along. 

Todd once told me that he stood outside of the mall entrance with Maurice once and watched him 
work. Apparently, Maurice believes that the best way to meet women is to stare at them and then do that 
hissing thing to get their attention. "Pssstttt," this is his intro. Todd didn't make clear whether this actually 
worked or not, but I don't see how it couldn't. A forty three year old arcade manager "psssstttt" ing at fourteen 
through twenty year old girls at the entrance to the mall. If that isn't a recipe for sexual success I don't know 
what is. His wife is divorcing him and he has no chance of meeting anyone else. 

The reason that she is leaving him is pretty obvious. It's funny how we can never understand what 
goes wrong in our lives when it is so obvious to everyone around us. We just can't see what makes us the 
jerks that we are when it is pretty clear to the rest of the world. All Maurice would have to do is ask me just 
once, "Timothy, why is my wife leaving me, man?" I would reply, "Well Maurice, you are a pigheaded control 
freak with a short temper and you watch a lot of porno. Try being a little nicer and cleaning out your under- 
wear drawer and you just might reconcile." The hilarity is that his wife and this man were only friends when 
Maurice found out. The two of them had only had lunch together once. Maurice found out about it and he 
went crazy. He began treating his wife like dirt and calling her names, in that awful accent no less, in front of 
their kids. She probably wanted to leave him before that because he is an idiot who listens to Christmas 
music and wears windbreaker jumpsuits. Still, she probably wouldn't have cheated on him if he had not 
become such a jerk. I would have left him too. Strike that. I never would have married him in the first place. 
Unless... Wait... What are the laws like in Massachusetts again? 

The guy is a wreck and he takes it out on me. I don't mind so much. Maurice's visits are the pepper 
in my otherwise bland Caesar salad of a life. Binge drinking helps out a lot too. The guy busts in every once 
in a while and gives me a tongue lashing. He threatens to fire me sometimes but I know that he is bluffing. 

What Maurice doesn't understand is that this place doesn't need me. This place doesn't even need 
him. The arcade will make just as much money whether I am even present or not. Brain dead teens and 



35 



children will drop coins in the slots just as long as there is a light on the other end. They react like moths to a 
flame. They don't need me. They don't need him. They don't even need their parents. All they need are 
quarters, fingers, and simulated violence and they will be happy for the rest of their lives. I have never seen 
"The Matrix," but I think that was sort of what it was about, a bunch of idiots hooked up to machines. Maybe I 
should rent that sometime. 

Todd and Maurice have gotten pretty tight in the past few months. One night after closing, Maurice 
came by with a new game strapped to the back of his truck and Todd stuck around to help us move it in. I 
couldn't have cared less either way, but Maurice must have seen something special in that big fat rhinoceros, 
so he offered him a job. I wasn't upset that I would be working with Todd. I really didn't care at all. I knew 
that there was a twelve pack and an episode of "Jerry Springer" waiting for me at home so I agreed that Todd 
should be hired at once. Lately, Maurice has been inviting Todd to join him on his trips to Orlando and 
Jacksonville, which are the other arcades in his region. I could just picture the expressions on Todd's face as 
Maurice tells him lurid details of his once great sex life on those long car rides in to Florida: "That position is 
called the Friendly Assassin, man." 

All of this back story is really just preface to what happened to me today. It was a day like any other. 
I woke up with a splitting headache and beer spilled all over the carpet. The little television that I keep beside 
my bed had fallen over and cracked just a bit on the right side of the screen. I rolled out of bed and lit a 
cigarette, then tossed on my jeans and a t-shirt before hopping in the car and stumbling in to work. Shower- 
ing is for people who want to be alive. Maurice was there to meet me at the door. He had come in early to 
check the safe, just to make sure that I wasn't stealing. He really wants to fire me. "What's up Maurice?" The 
guy rarely looks at me when we talk to each other, he just kind of runs around like a rat after the smell of 
distant vomit. Maurice jumps right in, "It stinks in here, man." I shouldn't have expected a greeting. To be 
treated with respect is not a part of the arcade community. "You need to go behind the games and sweep up 
today." I told him that I would so that he would go away, then I turned on that awful noise, opened the gate, 
and locked myself in the back room to take a nap. 

REEE-REEE-REEE!!! No, not now, please don't let this be a customer. I opened up the door and it 
was Jeremy. "Whassup, man?" He peers in the room and walks right past me. This has been our routine 
nearly every day for the past year and I am kind of glad to see him. "Listen Jeremy, I've got a pretty bad 
headache. Do you think that you could mind the store for me today?" I toss him my keys and his face lights 
up. Jeremy's fashion sense is remarkable. He wears these gigantic black pants that you find in the goth 
store here at the mall. Usually, he has on a wife beater or jersey and then a skull cap under a baby blue hat 
that has Eminem's logo on it. Eminem was the best thing that ever happened to young Jeremy. He validated 
his lifestyle somehow and made it alright to be who he is. No more must boys like Jeremy receive that 
classic tag of Vanilla Ice. 

Jeremy was more than happy to do my job for me after I listened to him tell a story about a twelve 
year old girl that he has been dating. I don't think that they date. They just walk around the mall together. 
They walk from one end to the other, stopping in random stores, followed by some homely kid in a backwards 
cap with a southern accent that would make the cast of "HEE-HAW" ask "Isn't that a bit much?" They laugh, 
they hit each other, and they hand out high fives to kids walking with their parents. It would be kind of cute if 
they didn't smoke and curse like sailors. Jeremy's girls always seem to dress like him. They are all fanatics 
about that dancing game and they have their own style of dress. It is like a weird mix between hip hop, goth, 
rave, and punk rock. All of the "alternative" styles of my youth rolled into one. 

An hour or two passes by and I get my desperately needed nap. I still had the runs, but the head- 
ache was gone. Now I'm wide awake and ready to read. Jeremy pops in sporadically to sit down and grab 
some free candy, but otherwise I'm alone and that is the way that I like it. Then REEE-REEE-REEE!!! Jer- 
emy slipped and let this one get by, so he jumps up as if to help them. "No, I've got this one." I don't mind 
doing my job after a nap. It takes a while for the beeps, and bells, and blasts to completely kill my spirit. "I 
wants dat radio." There stands a four year old child pointing at my prize shelf without a parent in sight. 
Without a word I turn off that hideous bell and walk back into my little room. Before I close the door I notice 
something rank. Maurice wasn't just being a jerk, this place really stinks. 

I weighed my options. I could either look for the smell or I could go back into my little room and hide 
out until Todd gets here. Which option do you think that I chose? Todd came bopping in excited about 
working in his favorite place around three. The rule is that there is one hour of overlap between my shift and 
the employees intended for instruction, but I usually just throw them the keys and run. "Todd listen, here is 
the deal. If you can find that smell I'll be your best friend forvever." Todd has a very comical face. He often 
overreacts in his facial expressions like some kind of silent movie actor. "That smell is just nasty, man. Let 



36 



me get a game in and then I'll check it out." Todd doesn't do anything until he has played at least twenty 
minutes of his fighting game. Now I'm intrigued. I want to know what is causing that hideous smell. I have 
located the general location as being behind the basketball shooting game. This is one of the games where 
you actually shoot the ball into a hoop at the back of the game. There is a large open space behind the 
machine. 

Jeremy and I were discussing possible causes for the repulsive odor coming from behind the game. 
Jeremy said, "I think it's a dead rat." There was a possibility that a rat had died there, but the mall is usually 
pretty good about extermination. They would have trapped the rats or sprayed them or something. I knew 
better. "It is probably just an old soda can that someone threw back there." Jeremy didn't buy that for a 
second. "Soda don't smell like that." After that we lost interest and I walked back into my room and put my 
nose in a book. 

Thirty minutes passed and I heard a knock at the door. Todd was ready to begin his shift and he 
needed my keys, so I decided to pretend to be a good manager and delegate the job of finding the smell. 
"Todd, here is a broom and a trash can. Let's push the game out a bit and you pick up whatever it is that is 
causing that stench." Todd and I unplugged the game and pushed it forward a couple of feet. "Alrighty Todd, 
get back there and do your thing." Todd ran into the back room for a moment to grab a flashlight. While 
walking toward the game he held up the flash light and gave me one of his silent movie actor looks as if to tell 
me that he was always one step ahead. Jeremy strutted over to see what all of the commotion was about. 
He and I stood there together and awaited Todd's discovery. 

I have to admit that I was hoping for a dead animal, something really disgusting that would freak Todd 
out and cause him to distort his face to express his disgust. Boy, did I get more than I had bargained for. 
Jeremy and I watched the flashlight disappear behind the game. The anticipation was almost too much to 
bear until we hear, "EEEWWWWW!!!" Todd came charging from behind the game yelling and frantically 
waving his arms. "NNNAAAWWW MAN!!! HELL NO! THAT AIN'T RIGHT!!!" Jeremy stepped towards Todd 
as if to calm him down. "What is it?" For a brief second I thought that it must have been a human head. 
What else could possibly elicit such a reaction? I was seconds away from dialing 911 . "What is it, Todd?" 
Todd continued jumping around and waving his arms. His face was contorting in dramatic ways that we had 
never witnessed before. "That is disgusting. I think I'm bout to throw up man, for real." Todd is a drama 
queen. That is an element of his personality that goes hand in hand with his mugging and his preachy 
conversational style. After a few seconds my cynical nature kicked in and I lost all hope that it was anything 
truly revolting. I calmly spoke in order to let Todd know that I wasn't buying his act. "Todd what is it?" 

Todd continued his melodramatic overreaction until I grabbed him by the shoulders. "Todd, what is 
it?" He looked me in the eye and behind those big goofy eyes I could see that he was truly mortified. "I ain't 
touching that, man. No way." I had to calm him down, "Todd you have to tell me what that was." Todd went 
silent all of the sudden and lowered his head, as if for a moment of silent meditation before he spoke. "Man, 
Timothy, that's doonky back there." His eyes opened wide when he said the word "doonky," for emphasis of 
course. I was stunned. Not only by the thought of solid human waste on the floor of my arcade, but also 
because he used the word "doonky," which is hilarious in and of itself. Jeremy snatched the flashlight out of 
Todd's trembling hand and ran to the back of the game to take a look. Ten seconds later I heard him scream. 
"Dang, that is SHHH..." I cut him off just in time to preserve the innocence of my youthful clientele. "Dude, 
you have to be kidding me." I grabbed the flashlight out of Jeremy's hand as he ran out holding his nose. I 
walked slowly and cautiously to the back of the game, pointing the flashlight toward the carpet. Then, there it 
wasin the beam of my flashlight, like a big brown potato in the middle of a spotlight: a human turd. 

I could feel the vomit rising to the edge of my throat and I tasted just a bit before I swallowed. I knew 
that the combination of feces and vomit would be too much to clean. Then I shouted, "That is @#$%ing 
disgusting!!!" Well, there goes my clientele's innocence. I could not believe what I was seeing. Many ques- 
tions came to mind immediately. How could this be? Who would have done such a thing? Is that a peanut? 
Why am I staring at it? It was all too much. 

True leadership is defined by how one acts in a crisis situation. "Todd, clean that @#$% up. I'm 
going home to take a shower." Jeremy started laughing and Todd stood there with his jaw on the floor. "Man, 
Timothy, I ain't about to touch that thing." I stood there silently pondering for just a second. I couldn't ask 
Todd to do this alone. Sure, my job title did include the authority to delegate work to my employees, but this 
just wasn't right. I had worked for far too many tyrannical, power mad bosses in cheesey positions of author- 
ity to make Todd do a job that I wasn't willing to do myself. I didn't want to be "The Man." For one brief 
moment I saw a little bit of myself in Todd and I decided we should handle this as a team. So, all three of us 
walked into the back room and shut the door. 

There was another moment of silence as we all considered our options. After all, there was a lot to 



37 



think about. I could tell that Todd was relieved that he wasn't going to be left to deal with this dilemma alone. 
For the first time in the year that I had worked there, I felt like a good manager. Jeremy was the first to break 
the silence. "That is @#$%ed up!" I began pacing and asked, "Who could have done this? What kind of 
freakish pig would drop trou and plop one out on the floor of an arcade?" The three of us fell back into silence 
until Jeremy spoke up again. "I bet it was them kids that you got onto last Saturday." He might have been 
right. Last Saturday there was a group of young kids playing games without any parents around. They kept 
ringing the bell and asking me to come help them with jammed tokens. Then they would walk up to the prize 
counter with an ungodly amount of tickets to get prizes. They played for several hours until I began to 
wonder where they were getting all of this money. Usually, three eleven year old boys, alone in the mall do 
no carry sixty bucks apiece. So, I started watching them through the peephole to the door of my little room. I 
noticed they were walking behind the basketball game, I popped out and caught them stealing tokens from 
the coin pan. I told them to leave and made them give back all of their tokens. That was it. I was convinced 
that I had triumphed so I went back into my room and read an article about global warming. While pondering 
the turd behind my game, I could almost hear them laughing at me and it really stung. 

Then there was this dad that was playing the basketball game and his tokens kept getting stuck. 
Over and over the bell kept ringing and each time I stumbled out to give him a free game. It must have 
happened twelve times before I became upset. REEE-REEE-REEE!!! "What?" This guy couldn't believe my 
nerve. "What you mean 'What'? The game keeps taking my tokens. That is what." He was nearly scream- 
ing at me. I stopped and turned to face him. There he was, this father of three children, who couldn't have 
been more than a few years older than me, ignoring his little seed and harassing me on a Saturday. There 
was a lot of rage in his eyes and you could tell that the world had been dumping on this guy for a long time. I 
stood there staring at him. Of course, I was hungover and only three seconds from letting this freak have it 
until his toddler son walked over and hugged his leg. The guy was a jerk and I would have loved to have put 
him in his place. Still, I'm no monster. I turned away and unlocked the machine. The man had become quiet 
as I was staring at him. I could tell that he thought that I was about to deck him. He was a little guy and must 
have been slightly intimidated. I wasn't going to hit him. I was only going to tell him what I really thought. He 
had shut up, but as I walked a way I put my hand behind my back and flipped him off. He didn't bother me for 
the rest of the day, but he was definitely a suspect in the case of the rotten potato. 

There was no telling who it could have been. I left the floor unattended all of the time and I was pretty 
rude to nearly everyone. I wasn't aggressive or snotty but my apathy shined through in almost every encoun- 
ter. I hated my job and everyone who became a part of it. Why wouldn't someone squeeze one out on my 
floor should have been the real question. I pictured that hundred pound dad squatting behind the machine 
with those big eyes bulging, mutterin, "I'll show that honkey not to mess with me," as he unloaded behind my 
game. Besides, it must have been a full grown man that dropped it because that thing was massive. 

Maurice was a pretty unstable person. Maybe he was the culprit. He could have done it just to teach 
me a lesson. Then I went into leader mode, "Todd, here is what we are going to do." I grabbed the small 
plastic trashcan and my Rolling Stone magazine with Jessica Simpson on the cover. "Take this magazine 
and place it next to the turd. Then sweep it onto the magazine and throw them both into the trashcan. Hand 
the trashcan over to Jeremy, and Jeremy, you go toss them both into the dumpster outside." Jessica 
Simpson didn't deserve a cover anyway. 

Before we got started, I walked back there one more time to see what we were up against. It was 
long and brown with white spots of mold. If I was Batman I would have taken it to the Batcave and scraped it 
for DNA, "Robin, this is the feces of none other than the Joker." I wonder how many people have to clean up 
human waste in their proffesion? Sure, sanitation workers, janitors, and porto-potty owners, but what about 
congressmen and leaders of industry? Do they ever handle poop? 

The absurdity of the situation overcame me as I heard Todd preparing to sweep the turd. I started 
cracking up when I heard him scream, "It's rolling, man! I got it rolling!" When Jeremy heard me laughing, he 
began laughing as well. Then he decided to make Todd feel worse, "Todd, how you like your job now?" Todd 
was focused, so he didn't respond at first. Then he threatened to toss the turd in Jeremy's face. Jeremy and 
I kept laughing as we listened to Todd squeal in a high pitched manner. After about a minute his hand 
reached out with the trashcan and broom. It was time for Jeremy to take over. Todd yelled at him, "Grab this 
@#$% boy!" Jeremy must have been offended by Todd's commanding tone and he slapped the trashcan out 
of Todd's hand, spilling its contents back onto the floor. Although I was amused by Jeremy had done, I was 
the authority figure and I had to step in. I said, "Jeremy, you have to sweep it back into the trashcan." 

Jeremy didn't actually work for the arcade. I gave him free candy and let him play free games but he 
wasn't getting paid or anything. I had no right to tell him to dispose of a turd and he knew it. Jeremy decided 
to politely decline my request, "I ain't cleaning that @#$% up." I was still laughing hysterically so I couldn't 



38 



speak up to stop him from walking away. Jeremy took off strutting away from the arcade to the goth store to 
steal a wrist band. That only left myself and Todd and there was no way that I was going near that thing 
again. I told Todd what to do, "Todd you have to try it again. This time, take the magazine and grab it with 
your hand, then run to the dumpster and toss it in." Todd had done what I had asked him the first time, but 
his faith in the chain of command was dwindling. He stopped and stared at me. The expression on his goofy 
face told me exactly what I had to do. 

Todd had made the attempt to dispose of the thing and had been thwarted. He had been a good 
soldier once but this time I was asking far too much. We stood there looking at each other for a moment. I 
wanted to ask him to pick it up again but his eyes were pleading with me. He had only wanted to play video 
games for six bucks an hour. He never signed up for this. If I would have asked him again he would have 
done it. Todd would have grabbed the thing with his teeth if I would have threatened to fire him. I looked into 
his big brown eyes and I just couldn't do it. It was time for me to prove that I was a far better boss than 
Maurice. It was time for me to do the right thing. 

I went back into my little room and I grabbed another broom. I took some plastic wrap that we used 
to wrap the glass monitors in transit and I wrapped the end of the broom. Then I grabbed a Time magazine 
that proclaimed George W. Bush the man of the year and I laid it face up beside the turd. It was about to get 
nasty. 

I have often heard that it is a man's actions that define his character in the end. Some men find glory 
on the battlefield. Some men march for freedom. Some men triumph over injustice and change the world. I 
swept a turd onto a magazine and tossed it into a plastic trashcan. I sprinted outside , then I tossed the 
brooms and trashcan into the dumpster, ran back to the arcade and washed my hands repeatedly. After 
washing my hands for fifteen minutes I picked up the phone and called Maurice. "Consider this my two 
weeks notice." I said, "This job is @#$%!" 



39 




"Incredible Hulk," Dean Miller, Ink and Color Pencil 



40 



A Hero's Welcome 

by Sean Kymalainen 

A sliver of light could be seen between the two large oak doors that held back my greatest fear. I sat 
in a stiff, metal chair staring at their heavy presence, pondering the depths of irony. I am just an average, non- 
descript man meandering through life. Few know or care about Jonathan Rice, a city cab driver who works 
the shifts of the night owls. Today however, I am something more. I am a witness in a fantastic murder trial. 
Unfortunately, what I have to say is not what everyone would like to hear. It is this fact that makes me want to 
crawl in the hole of some dark, dank cave where the light cannot reach. Ironically, though, darkness is 
nowhere to be seen. My day is full of light, shining on me as if someone needed to watch me closely. The 
thought brought me back to the sun I saw this morning. 

My morning started with a sunrise. I would like to say that I woke up to a beautiful sight, inspired by 
romantic allusions, but I cannot. In fact, the reason that I saw the sunrise was because I never fell asleep. 
Perhaps that is why I felt the sun watched me with its blood red eye accusing me with its horrible sight. An 
image from the past screamed its way into my present. An apple, slowly expanding burst in my mind. In my 
dream this vision became so real that I would find myself crying out in the dark night of the moonless alley- 
way behind my apartment. For that reason I decided to stay awake for as long as I can. Could anyone blame 
me? 

It had been two days since I last found comfort in the depths of any slumber. I knew, in my mind, that 
all my horrors were related to my dilemma of truth or lies. I had walked to the courthouse from my apartment. 
It was only a short walk and I liked crossing the park along the way. Somehow it had made me feel calmer. Of 
course I was not alone. A member of the world famous "Hall" had escorted me there for my own protection. 
This superhero was idolized by many in the city. He was, in fact, Black Night, the founder of the Hall almost 
thirty years ago. He was incredibly tall, at over seven and a half feet, and although he no longer fought as a 
superhero, he still inspired awe in the many people who witnessed his immense capacity for strength. 

We had walked over to the courthouse in a leisurely manner in which little was said between us. 
Upon reaching the courthouse, Black Night had stopped me with his arm and turned me around with the ease 
of a child playing with a plastic doll. When I had looked up into his face I knew my future was at a crossroads. 
His voice is still ringing in my ears, even though his words were spoken over two hours ago. He said to me 
that he had fought for the city and the "Hall" for his entire life. He had given everything to it. Keep that in mind, 
he had said, when on the witness stand. He and the rest of the "Hall" will not let what they have built be 
destroyed. Be a part of the team and be a hero. He had then left me to walk the last flight of steps to my 
waiting room. 

It had seemed so simple at first. Tell a lie so that the world would be free of an evil entity and thereby 
keep the honor and integrity of the "Hall" intact. No stain must be allowed to tarnish the image of purity and 
justice or the people will lose hope. Resolutely I had walked up those stairs until I was greeted by the twin 
statues of the Guardian Twins who framed the entrance to the courthouse. These two legendary heroes lost 
their lives to Dr. Pestilence many years before when he had first come to prominence. Black Night had written 
the epitaphs on the bottom of each statue himself. I had paused long enough to read each one. On the statue 
to the left was written "Let truth and honor be the virtues we hold" while the statue on the right had the words 
"Let justice be fair and true to all, whoever they may be." Underneath each epitaph was a signed pledge by 
every member of the "Hall." I had stared a long time before I finally entered the courthouse and was led to the 
waiting room, which is where I find myself now. 

My lone window is small as if there was a fear that I would fly away from all this attention. I would if I 
could. The sky beckons with a heavenly shade of blue, the light puffs of white thirsting with nectar. The bright 
sun, though, mocks me with its fire on my brow. It's the light that hurts me. It blazes in fury in its effort to deny 
the grace of my peace. Unable to maintain a gaze with such a forceful eye, I turn my attention to the floor as I 
consider the depths of my dilemma. 

Should the truth be told? The consequences of such an act seem too horrible to contemplate. Horror, 
revulsion, despair and disgust would no doubt be results. Hatred, the pure hatred of an entire society, though, 
would be laid on my shoulders. I am not sure if I can deal with that. Why does truth have to have such a 
terrible price tag? That part wasn't written on either epitaph I noticed. There are, of course, none of these 
terrible consequences if I lie. Only two other people will know the truth and they will never say anything. I will 
not have to fear any retribution. I will be seen as a hero by all. Jonathan Rice will be seen by many as a great 
man doing his civic duty with none the wiser... I would know though. 

Growing up I remember worshiping every member of the "Hall" as an idol. The one superhero that 



41 



stood out the most for me, though, was Molecularman. I was sick myself during that terrible epidemic of 
wasting disease which Dr. Pestilence inflicted upon us. It was Molecularman who found a way to save us and 
I was indebted to him. That was nearly fifteen years ago. I watched his career religiously from that point on, 
saving every newspaper clipping of his exploits. It was my desire to see him in action once in my life. Never 
did I think it would be like this. I never knew how lonely it can be with the truth. 

It is lonely in this room. The walls are barren of any stimulation which leaves one with nothing but 
thoughts. I see by my watch that I have been in here for over two hours. Each minute, though, feels like an 
eternity. A fly, God only knows why, keeps going through the motions of flying through the small window. Will it 
never learn that, for all its transparency, the window will not budge? For I know that the world out there is not 
the same as the one in here. But, I can't help think, that it should be. 

The floors have been waxed recently I think. Why do they insist on squeaky floors? Is it so that we 
can hear the footsteps of doom which increasingly thunder with each maddening clop? I can hear a light 
murmuring on the other side of the doors. I feel myself straining to hear but I cannot catch any words. Are 
they talking of me, I wonder? The murmuring continues like a low hum until it suddenly pauses. In a loud 
booming voice, I clearly hear the prosecutor say "Cindy Davis!" 

That was her name, the girl that was murdered that is. I have only seen her that one night but that 
was enough to etch her in my mind forever. She wore a white sundress when I saw her. What stood out, 
though, was the print of an apple on her chest that was large and deeply hued. It was dark in the alley, lit by a 
few overhead street lights that made the scene appear quite hazy. Her hair was a raven black, straight, with a 
clean, medium length cut that framed a pale, very pretty face. Her lips contrasted with the paleness of her 
skin by matching the rich hue of the apple on her dress. From my vantage point, about thirty feet away, she 
appeared to be asleep. I knew as I had inched closer, though, that it was just the sleep of eternity. 

I did not want to believe my eyes, but the evidence could not be erased from sight. The girl was dead, 
murdered before me in gruesome fashion. The apple on her breast was larger now, so large in fact that I 
realized her heart had been torn out. I trembled from the top of my head to the very tip of my toes. The tumult 
that I had witnessed only a few minutes before gave had given way to an eerie silence that was now only 
broken by the chirping of a single cricket. I heard sirens nearing and when I looked down the long blocks of 
alleys in the distance I saw the familiar flashes of blue and red. No doubt Molecularman had raised the alarm. 
As soon as I had risen my arm in an effort to attract their notice a steel grip tore through my shoulder. 

I looked up into the kind, simple eyes of the bailiff, a large white man with a puffy red face. His hand, 
resting on my shoulder, softly shook me from my hellish thoughts. "It's time, Jonathan," he said. 

His words filled my body with a sudden rush of adrenaline. My hands began to shake so badly that I 
balled them into fists and released them several times in a quick attempt at regaining my composure. I made 
to rise from my seat but my legs would not obey. Breathing deeply, I stared at the floor and then at the bailiff. 
"I'm scared," I told him. 

The bailiff pursed his lips and looked at the twin doors. "Don't be, Jonathan. The Hall will protect you. 
He will never be able to hurt anyone again after this." 

"What if The Hall will not protect me?" I asked. "What will I do then?" 

"Nonsense," said the bailiff. "The Hall has always protected us. They will protect you as well. You 
have nothing to fear, so let's go." 

The bailiff opened the doors and led me into the courtroom. I had a sensation of falling as bright 
flashes blinded me. Through the stars I could still make out the imposing presences of The Hall, encircling the 
courtroom with their solidly set expressions. They were a closely knit group that fought side by side on many 
occasions. Half the members of the Hall owed their lives in some fashion to Molecularman. Each of them also 
had a secret identity that they cherished as well. The weight of their collective stares dragged me further into 
an abyss. I never thought, in all my years of idol worship, that one day these superheroes would inspire fear 
in my bones. I made my way to the witness stand next to the judge, a seventy year old woman with glasses, 
with a stern stiffness about her that immediately pressed the conscience of my mind. "Swear the witness in," 
she instructed and with that I was solemnly doomed. 

With a tremendous effort of will I looked at the defendant's table. There, in all his evil, sat the ominous 
presence of Dr. Pestilence. Forty nine years of age and yet he had the youthful appearance of an Adonis. He 
appeared to be about six feet tall and weigh a fit one hundred and eighty pounds. His blond, wavy hair did not 
show even a trace of white. His eyes, however, were blazing with burning hues that seemed to morph as he 
scanned me room. The sheer evil of his existence exuded from his seat and wafted throughout the room. My 
teeth began to slowly grind together as I wringed my hands. The chains that held him in place seemed too 
inadequate for the task. It was, after all, this man who discovered the secret to the cause and cure of all 
disease. What this man could have become, I can only hazard to guess. What he did become was a scourge 



42 



on humanity. 

I felt light headed and ill. The room was spinning and my mind would not focus. Out of this haze I 
heard a voice. It was the voice of Dr. Pestilence. "Are we sick, Mr. Rice? If you need any assistance you may 
rest assured that I will be at your service." 

Before I had any chance to reply the judge said "The defendant will refrain from speaking. Is that 
understood, Doctor?" 

Dr. Pestilence, with a devious smirk, nodded his head and replied "of course, your honor. I would 
never think of offending a proceeding in search of the truth." Dr. Pestilence then leisurely crossed his legs 
and placed his two hands together like a tent. Leaning back in his chair he softly chuckled as he stared in my 
direction. 

Such power he possessed. I knew, as everyone else knew, that his discovery enabled him to be 
immunized against the effects of all disease including the effects of aging. His strength grew to the limits of 
human potential. His intelligence magnified to almost god-like proportions. It is such a shame that he did not 
share this discovery with the world. When I look at the members of the Hall today in the courtroom, I can see 
their disdain for him. They too thought he wasted his discovery when he could have saved billions of people. 
Instead he chose to subjugate those billions with an eye on total world domination. It was only through the 
efforts of Molecularman that disaster was averted. 

Dr. Pestilence's grin slowly retreated as his disturbing eyes narrowed. I instinctively shrank from his 
glare. In the back of the room I could just make out the form of Molecularman. His red and blue cape fluttered 
behind his large frame even though we were indoors. How is that possible? The prosecutor, a man in his late 
thirties, short and stocky, strolled to the stand in a self-confident manner. After some preliminary questioning, 
the prosecutor, a man who never introduced himself to me said "Mr. Rice what were you doing the night of 
June the twelfth?" 

I breathed deeply a few times as I sorted out my thoughts. Thankfully the question was not something 
I needed to worry about so I said "I was working the night shift, driving my cab looking for a fare." 

"And did you find a fare?" he asked. 

"Not exactly," I answered. 

The prosecutor frowned and said "what do you mean you didn't exactly find a fare? It was my under- 
standing that you did." 

"Well," I began, "my fare was a call from the station. Max said I should pick up this girl on the corner 
of Edison and Main." 

"Who is Max?" he asked. 

"Max is our dispatcher," I replied. 

The prosecutor turned slowly towards the jury and asked "Did Max say anything unusual about this 
fare?" 

I paused for a moment and replied "yes he did. He said that she sounded frightened and I should be 
very cautious when picking her up." 

"And were you cautious, Mr. Rice?" 

"Yes... I was. I parked my cab around the block so I could check the area out in case it was a setup." 
I tried not to look anywhere particular but I couldn't help notice that Molecularman was staring at me from the 
back of the room. His emblem, a large, white J on his chest overpowered my sight. Unlike most superheroes, 
Molecularman did not wear a symbol of his name. His symbol was for justice. It was one of the reasons why I 
had been so proud of his career. I came to believe in that principle because my hero had. 

The prosecutor clasped his hands behind his back and paced before the jury. "What did you find in 
your scouting?" he continued. 

I thought back to that horrible night. I clearly remember the stink of the garbage cans in the alley. 
Steam rose from a vent by the road. Even through the haze I could make out the forms of two men fighting. I 
leveled my eyes in a stare at nothingness. "I saw a tremendous fight," I said. 

"Who did you see fighting, Mr. Rice?" 

I looked at the defense table and then towards the back of the room. My hands began to shake 
again. With a cracked voice, I replied "Dr. Pestilence and Molecularman." 

"Did either of them notice you?" he asked. 

Time seemed to slow. I struggled with my tongue. Dr. Pestilence's grin seemed to widen as far as a 
Cheshire cat. In the back of the room I could clearly hear Molecularman's light cough. Finally, I softly said 
"No, they didn't." 

The prosecutor slowly made his way towards the defense table. He turned his back to me and looked 
at Dr. Pestilence. "There was a girl there also, wasn't there Mr. Rice?" 



43 



I swallowed a gulp of air and closed my eyes. I could still see her underneath my eyelids, however. It 
was so incredibly vivid. I shifted a little in my chair, but it still felt hot. "Yes," I finally replied, "there was." 

The prosecutor, after a lengthy pause, went on. "This girl, Cindy Davis was her name, was murdered 
that night. Did you happen to see the circumstances that led up to that terrible tragedy?" 

"Yes I did," I replied. 

"Could you please tell us what you overheard just before Cindy was brutally murdered?" 

"I overheard Dr. Pestilence demand that she tell him what the secret identity of Molecularman was." 

"And how did Miss Davis respond?" asked the prosecutor. 

I had to hesitate. This is where it might really blow up in my face. I thought for the best way to answer 
the question, but all avenues were paths to lies. Perhaps against my better judgment I said "I never heard her 
speak. I only saw and heard Dr. Pestilence with his demands from her. I didn't see her until afterward." The 
look on Dr. Pestilence's face when I said that could only be described as awestruck, with his mouth opened in 
a silent "O." 

Dr. Pestilence, sitting motionlessly, only grabbed my attention for a moment because the prosecutor 
turned abruptly around and raised a clenched fist. His face, contorted in an odd smile, struck me as more 
than a little frightening. The courtroom seems to be littered with frightening people today. No one, not even 
the kind looking bailiff, seemed to offer me a smile. It almost seems as if everyone is on the same team and I 
am just not willing to play. Very slowly the prosecutor paced until he stopped directly in front of me. He eyed 
me up and down while letting out a small "tsk..tsk." He breathed deeply and asked "Did you or did you not see 
the defendant murder Cindy Davis in the alleyway that night?" 

I tried staring into nothingness again. But the apple was now intruding on my waking thoughts as 
well. Justice for all, no matter who they may be I thought. I started to reply and then choked on my own lie. I 
asked for a glass of water, which the bailiff gave me, as he laid his iron grip on my shoulder. I looked up into 
the eyes of a policeman. This was not the bailiff. This was the policeman of that dreadful night. He put his 
finger to his lips and motioned me to the side of the alley. He paused for a second and said "what you have 
seen and heard here cannot be retold. You must know that our city depends on it. If the truth should be 
known then we all that we have fought for will be lost. Do you understand?" 

My heart beat rapidly and my legs were paralyzed. All I could do was nod my head. I will save my 
hero and Dr. Pestilence will be put away forever. The policeman leaned close to my face, so close that his 
foul onion breath made me recoil. His grimy complexion was silhouetted by an overhanging light. He whis- 
pered in a soft tone "now this is what you will say..." 

I felt my arm shake and slowly I began to realize that I was back in the courtroom. Each trip back into 
the past brought me closer to that horror. What will make it go away? The prosecutor, red as a beet, was 
imploring the judge to force me to answer. I felt a calmness that I had never felt before. It was as if my inner 
soul suddenly became lighter. A light voice, coming from somewhere in my mind, comforted me. I raised my 
head and looked the prosecutor in the eye. I said "no, I didn't see Dr. Pestilence kill Cindy Davis." 

The prosecutor' face froze for just a second, but he quickly recovered and said "did you or did you 
not, Mr. Rice give a deposition that the defendant did in fact murder Cindy Davis?" 

"Yes I did." 

"Then why," he began in an exasperated voice, "did you just say that you did not see him do it?" The 
prosecutor kept shaking his head no slightly in what appeared to be disbelief. Amazingly, in the back of the 
room, I could see Molecularman seated with his strong jaw resting on his fist. Even from that distance I could 
see that he was gnashing his teeth. 

I could feel the tension in the air. Dr. Pestilence's grin actually seemed to widen in enjoyment at my 
predicament. If his grin got any wider it would be just a circle on his face. He does not even seem to care 
about his own situation. I can't help but wonder if he feels anything at all. Could that have been a byproduct of 
his discovery? I shuddered at the thought. I have come too far now to go back. The apple began to drip red 
as it faded from my mind. Slowly I said, in a voice that I knew must have sounded strained, "because... I was 
told to lie about what I saw and heard." 

The stars flashed so rapidly that it became hard to see in front of me. The murmuring and hushed 
whispers continued for several minutes as the judge tried to restore order. In the confusion I lost track of 
where everyone was located. I grew fearful of the unknown. At the same time, however, a premonition of the 
known filled me with dread. Somehow, I know what the consequences will be. But I must stay true to the 
principle. It is, after all, the principle itself and not the man behind it that must be saved. Otherwise, what is 
the point in fighting for it? 

The prosecutor began to pace so rapidly that the judge ordered him to sit still. At that precise moment 
Dr. Pestilence started to laugh and he continued to laugh so hard and so long that the judge finally ordered 



44 



him to be gagged. Finally, the prosecutor approached me and asked "who told you to lie about the case? Was 
it me? Anybody in the D.A.'s office? Who?" 

"No one connected to the case. It was a police officer who I haven't seen again. He told me to lie at 
the murder scene." 

"Why," he continued "did he want you to lie?" 

This was the moment of truth. I knew that the world as I knew it would change forever. My life had 
been pretty decent to this point. No troubles, I paid my bills. I also had seen, in action, the superhero 
Molecularman. He was the only man capable of defeating Dr. Pestilence. His power to change his molecular 
structure made him invulnerable to the bacterial devices created by Dr. Pestilence. Their battle in the alley- 
way was furious and awesome to behold. They both possessed such extraordinary strength that it was 
amazing anyone could survive the terrific blows they each delivered to one another. 

I will never forget the sight of Molecularman flinging Dr. Pestilence over fifty feet in the air to crash 
against a solid brick wall that crumbled from the impact. Nor will I ever forget how he stopped Dr. Pestilence's 
death darts by forming his body into a gaseous cloud. My skin prickled when I saw that happen. It prickles 
now because I know what he is capable of. Molecularman was a superhero and he was my boyhood idol. It 
was so heartbreaking to see that he was a false idol. 

I scanned the courtroom, but could no longer find any trace of Molecularman. For some reason, that 
made my skin crawl. Somehow... I would rather know where he is. I answered the prosecutor in a hoarse 
whisper with "he wanted me to protect Molecularman." 

"What does Molecularman, a superhero I might add, need in the way of protection from you?" 

"Well, the truth of the matter is it was... Molecularman who murdered Cindy Davis and not Dr. Pesti- 
lence." 

Several loud "No's" rang out in unison from all corners of the courtroom. The furor would not abate 
and finally the judge ordered that the courtroom to be cleared of spectators. When order was restored it was 
discovered that not only was Molecularman gone, but the whole Hall as well. Not a trace of a single super- 
hero remained in the building. 

The prosecutor, when questioning resumed, charged at me with an unrestrained fury. "You do realize 
what you have done," he shouted. "You have impugned the reputation of this city's greatest citizen. What 
would make you think that we could actually believe Molecularman murdered Cindy Davis? That man has 
saved our fair city again and again from the machinations of super villains such as Dr. Pestilence. What, pray 
tell, would be his motive?" 




'Untitled," Elizabeth Bedell, Black Paper 



45 



I knew I was lost. They would never believe my story and I would 'disappear' somehow. But at least I 
was honest to poor Cindy Davis. I could at least be true to her. Justice may not come in the form of punish- 
ment, but at least she will have the justice of truth. "Mr. Prosecutor," I sternly said, "on the night of June the 
twelfth Molecularman murdered Cindy Davis because she knew his secret identity. I don't know how she 
knew, but she knew. Dr. Pestilence found out somehow and was prepared to get it out of her in some way or 
other. What I saw, though, was not a murder by Dr. Pestilence. Instead, I saw Molecularman thrust his arm, in 
the shape of a metal tube, backwards against the wall. I did not see what he had hit at first, but I heard the 
slight gasp of a female voice. I saw a little later that it was Cindy." 

The prosecutor wringed his hands and then ran them through his hair. "It could have been an acci- 
dent, couldn't it have?" he implored. 

I slowly shook my head. "No," I said. "I clearly heard him tell Dr. Pestilence that he would be blamed 
for this crime and then he laughed. He laughed at how he had committed the murder and Dr. Pestilence 
would have to pay for it. He also said that she deserved it for trying to leak his identity." 

The prosecutor and defense attorney, who strangely never said a word during all of this, accompa- 
nied the judge in her chambers to talk for several minutes. When they finally returned the judge looked at me 
and said "you are dismissed Mr. Rice." 

I looked from the prosecutor back to the judge. I felt vulnerable. I said "your honor, may I have some 
protection? I fear for my safety. Molecularman may come after me." 

The judge looked at me with solemn eyes and shook her head. "The entire Hall has left," she said. 
"Besides. ..I doubt any of them would offer to protect you. ..and none of us can do anything against a super- 
hero. I'm afraid you are on your own Mr. Rice." She pointed to the doors and had the bailiff escort me out. As I 
left the courtroom I caught the smirk of Dr. Pestilence who was being led back to his cell. How will they hold 
him without a superhero? I knew the answer, of course. They can't. The city needs superheroes. 

The lobby was full of people who stared with disgustful faces. I put on my coat and hat and lowered 
the brow as far as possible. I tried to leave the building as quickly as possible. Once outside I headed for 
home. The park is about halfway between the courthouse and my apartment and that thought led me towards 
its inviting garden. I leisurely walked down a commonly treaded path. The gravel kicked up from my heels 
with an accompanying crunch sound. A little on the way I spied an old bench that seemed to beckon for 
attention. I stopped and sat on this bench. It was cold, with the black paint flecking off it but somehow it gave 
me warmth. 

The sun was setting in the west, its light slowly extinguishing. The blood red eye had given way to a 
soft purple one which seemed to smile as it fell on the horizon. I watched the last rays slip in the distance. My 
head grew light and my heart, in a silent salute, tugged. Looking down at my breast I saw the familiar apple of 
that fateful night. The birds seemed to be silent at the moment, perhaps as a tribute to the dying day. The 
warmth of the sun receded as I felt the onset of cold. I could not focus my eyes but it seemed I saw Cindy 
Davis waving to me in the distance. She pointed at the apple on my chest. I stared at it for a moment as it 
ripened to fruition. It was going to be a very large apple. 



46 



Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Art 




'Untitled," Photograph, Luciana Carniero 



47 



Tangled Up in the Blues 

by Karen White 

She was not late for work. She was adamant about that one fact up until the end. She woke up 
regularly, showered frugally, and then prepared for her day, as usual. She got into her car, drove to work at 
the prescribed speed limit of 55, got out of the car, walked to the door of the store, reached for her keys . . . 

Her keys to the store were at home. She could see them, hanging mockingly on the peg beside the 
door, teasing her with their location that was diametrically opposed to her hands at that moment. Because 
she organized her day so stringently, she had fifteen minutes. She decided to try the bypass to get home and 
back again. 

On the way home, she cursed herself. She hadn't indulged in any alteration to her morning ritual. 
She had not opted for a morning quickie— those days were gone, since he'd left. She hadn't spent the 
previous night drinking; she went to bed at an appropriate hour, not too early to be considered depressing, 
but not so late as to be insomnia. She woke up with no ill feelings or rush, so there was no logical reason for 
her forgetfulness. 

As she coursed through her self-defeating cycle, she missed the exit for her part of town. She 
noticed almost immediately, but just that second too late to do anything about it. She hurriedly tried to adopt 
her contingency plan for such situations: take the next exit and turn around. She did take the next exit, but 
she did not turn around. As soon as she reached the end of the ramp, the world went blue. 

The blue was not dark; she determined that she was not blind. No, the blue was bright, yet washed 
out. The road before her glowed with the pale, almost white blue. The trees were lined in a slightly darker 
version, but the core of the trees, the trunks and branches, were whitish blue. The street signs were illegible 
from the coloration, so she could not quite get her bearings. 

She refused to panic; panic is the killer of souls and all things good, or at least her so her mother had 
mentioned everyday of her life. She'd organized her life in such a way that panic was never an option. 
However, her heart raced and her breathing picked up and her eyelids fluttered and the blue just stayed. 

Not once did it occur to her that stopping the car was an option because stopping was never an 
option for this one. Her plan was to simply take the next exit and turn around. So far, the plan went awry 
because she had not turned around, so she immediately turned around, in the middle of the road, regardless 
of traffic. Thankfully, the road was deserted. Not so thankfully, the road had disappeared altogether. 

No problem, she thought, of course, I can handle this; I can form a plan at the drop of a hat, this is my 
skill. She thought these things as the sky melded with the earth on the horizon, right before the horizon 
vanished. She thought these things as she heard the voices sing in her head that she deserved to wink out 
of natural existence; no one would really miss her if she went in one fell swoop. The voices were blue- 
washed out, faded jeans and too bright clear sky of the desert. They were pale mock-ups of the real thing; 
the voices of her mother's calm criticisms and her now gone husband's jubilant lies mixed with the rasp of her 
dying grandmother and gruff of her thoroughly anal boss. She then knew that the keys would never be found 
in this state of being; further, the house had gone-she just knew it, deeply and sincerely, she knew that her 
life as she once knew it was gone forever. 

She kept driving, listening to the clamor in her head that drowned out all other sounds; the wind sheer 
against the car was absolutely no match for the phrase her mother's keening voice rammed into her con- 
sciousness: I'm . . . just . . . so . . . disappointed. Her husband rumbled a retort: I love you, I do, I need 
you, i do, I have to do this, you don't need me fucking up your life, I know just what you need. Grandmother's 
voice was all cobbler and maple syrup, with a hint of nicotine: Kiddo, just give it up, keep driving, keep driving, 
keep going, don't ever stop, if you stop you die, look at me, I stopped, I'm stopping, I will stop forever. Her 
boss stuck with the immediate situation at hand: What time is it? What do you mean you forgot the keys? 
What kind of assistant are you? What am I paying you for anyway? 

Panic. The blue streak of panic consoled her, caressing her lungs as she gasped for breath, tracing 
over her stomach lining as the ulcer broke through, draping her eyes with the stark reality of the summer day. 
She'd forgotten her keys, but more importantly, she'd forgotten her lessons, her rules, herself. She smiled at 
the face in her deteriorating rear view mirror; the face that peered back, leering, was the face of Panic, her 
lover, her friend, her solace, her indulgence for the morning. She pulled over, still staring into Panic's blue 
eyes, cold and icy. She reveled in her fear; she ignored the polite police voice asking if she was okay. She 
just kept seeing the blue and loving the end of her existence. 



48 




'Untitled," Mia Montgomery, Prismacolor Pencils 



49 




id," Mia Montgomery, Charcoal 



50 



Fever 

by Carmela Orsini 

I'm under the protection of three comforters and my fleece pajamas, yet I still shiver. The air condi- 
tioner and fans are all turned off and it's the middle of July - in Georgia. Yes, I am sick. 

I stare down the unlit hallway leading from my bedroom to the kitchen where medication awaits me in 
my small, early twenties apartment. By the sound of the clock hanging next to my fridge, the kitchen is 
approximately three inches from my ear, but my eyes deceive me. The kitchen must surely be at least half a 
mile from my warmer bed. 

I have been fighting this battle in my head for quite some time. I must be able to work in the morning; 
you can't call in sick on your first day. So, should I take the fever medication in hopes that once my symp- 
toms subside I will be able to find rest, or should I take the sleep medication hoping that a good night's rest 
will cure me? My aching limbs tell me that reaching the kitchen won't happen regardless my decision. The 
logical answer is to stay in bed where I at least have my three comforters, but come nine o'clock, I must leave 
the bed regardless of how I feel. So back to my dilemma: relief or sleep? 

Still unsure of my answer, I decide to start my trudge to the kitchen. I peel off my covers like healthy 
layers of skin, unwillingly and painfully. The alarm clock glows at me. 1:26 am. I've been fighting sleep for 
only an hour. My journey is long, slow, and agonizing. Each step comes with a new ache and the constant 
shivering doesn't help the pains rushing down my spine. 

I finally fumble for the lights. 1 :22. Could it be that it's been an entire day since I left the comfort of 
my queen sized bed? Could it be that I'm stuck in some sort of space-time continuum where time runs 
backwards? Could it be that my clocks aren't synchronized? I shall ponder the thought no longer. 

I am forced, however, to finally answer the question that has been haunting my sleepless slumber, 
but, alas, I cannot. A compromise then. Half a dose of each. Shouldn't kill me. Instead of taking the normal 
two pills of each, I shall take one pill of both. That ought to do something. The idea suddenly seems so 
obvious and genius to me, but it could just be the fever talking. Opening the pills is ridiculously harder than 
normal, but that's probably because my hands/fingers won't stop shivering/shaking from the cold. I grab a 
bottle of water from the fridge to swallow the pills with, but the smell of food makes me gag. I quickly resort to 
my time-tested, mother-not-approved remedy for vomiting - I eat a freshly picked booger. I never could figure 
that one out, but it works every time. Maybe the mouth is tricked. It was thinking the nasty stuff was going to 
come out, but it grows confused when the nasty comes in instead. I digress. 

The trip back to my room seems to go much quicker with this newfound contemplation regarding 
boogers and vomit, but my symptoms and inability to sleep still remain. 1:29 am. Three minutes. Three 
stinking minutes to travel the twenty feet to my kitchen, take a couple of pills, and return back. Seems right. 

Or perhaps the aliens are coming after all. 



51 



Buddha on the Hill 

by Karen White 

I woke up to the sound of metal clicking against the spokes of my wheelchair. The combination of the 
high-pitched keen-and-click with the vibration in the still air more than startled me; the grating noise amplified 
the mean hangover I had started the night before. I cracked an eyelid to see who'd broken into my room. All I 
could see was a sharp smile and a knitting needle. 

"Well, Stanley. Wakey, wakey. Where's the money?" 

I surveyed the situation. Standing beside my chair and holding the needle, I had Joey Jakes, money 
collector for our local gambling baron, Kevin the Mick. He carried the knitting needle because it wasn't 
considered a weapon. He had a huge Star of David around his neck and was wearing a yarmulke. The light 
creeping in from the blinds glinted off the silver, intensifying my headache. 

"What money? I haven't bet in weeks." 

"How do you like that. He hasn't placed a bet in weeks." Joey looked up as if expecting an answer. I 
glanced over at my dresser, trying to shade my eyes from the glare from around his neck. As I tracked my 
gaze over my collected shit, my eyes snagged on a red resin Buddha I'd won at a carnival. I loved that thing. 

Joey looked back at me. "Seriously, Stanley, where's the money?" 

I looked back at Joey. "What's the point, man? I don't owe, and even if I did, I don't have the money. 
Just go away." I yawned, feeling the pins and needles in my back from sleeping in the chair. 

Joey chuckled. "Stanley, do you remember how you got your nickname?" 

I rolled my eyes. "Of course I do, Joey." 

Joey cut me off. "No, I love telling this one. One time, you owed Kevin some money, but wouldn't 
pay up. Apparently, you think that cripples get a discount." Joey laughed at his ever-present wit. "Anyway, I 
had to come see you, and you wouldn't pay. Just like now. I hit you so hard you went walleyed for days." 

I looked back at Buddha. He smiled. "Great story, Joey. I still don't owe shit." 

Joey ignored me. "What I never understood is why you're called the Butcher." 

I kept my face still. "Cause it's my last name. Until you came into my life, sunshine, I used to be just 
Stanley Butcher." 

Joey looked up again. "Aw. That's sweet. Didya hear that? He called me sunshine. We're like an 
old married couple." Joey laughed again, then looked at me. He scowled. "If you don't cough up, I'm gonna 
find the money somewhere." 

I wised up. I knew I hadn't bet in weeks; nothing much had been going on. We didn't bet on sports 
or cards or anything like that. Instead, we bet on whether or not the cops would bust up the local crack house 
or if the whores would raise their prices to match the rise in gas prices. Stuff like that. But, the Mick took that 
shit seriously. He had weird odds, too. And I always lost. And he never gave a cripple discount. No, I 
realized that Joey was just trying to shake me down. 

I stopped looking at Buddha and looked over at Joey, nonplussed. "Joey, I'm not givin' you crap. I 
ain't got any money. I ain't gonna let you hit me. Just let me sleep off the drunk, please, for God's sakes, I 
just want to sleep, maybe eat, just leave me alone." I heard the blubbering rise in my throat, the fake shame. 
He always fell for that. 

"All right, man. I'm comin' back later. I gotta feelin' that Kevin's bookkeeping will show your error. I 
swear you bet on Jesus Freak last week." 

I woke up quick, headache disappearing. "What happened to Jesus?" 

Joey walked over to the unmade bed on the other side of my chair. I felt an amazing urge to trip him, 
but if I had, he would've found out I could walk. Buddha sat with his belly, governing over us all. 

"Well, the Jesus Freak got caught, finally. He'd been pulling the legs off those fish things on the 
backs of the cars by the school. All those teachers got the fish with legs. Anyway, the cops got him." Joey 
paused for a brief moment of silence for a fallen hero. "They took him in around 10 last night. He was jitterin' 
and spewin' some crap about being a fisher of men or some such nonsense." 

While Joey talked, I scratched the scruff on my face and thought about ol' Jesus. He was a squirrelly 
guy. I figured he'd go down long before now. If he wasn't prying off those fish legs, he was taking a perma- 
nent marker to pagan bumper stickers or stealing the letters off church signs so they'd only say "Jesus hates 
cats" and nothing else. I liked Jesus, though. He was good for talk on the street, and he was the only one 
who knew my secret. 

"Well. Sad for Jesus. Get out Joey." I wheeled back from the bed and hit the wall behind me, 
knocking a healthy amount of dust from the windowsill. I sneezed; Joey laughed. 

"Bless you. All right, man. I'll go for now. But I'll be back later." 

With that, he went back out of the door he'd pried open, leaving it open. I wheeled over to shut it, 
then stood up. Buddha stood smiling in the very center of the dresser. I noticed the stuff on my dresser was 
all arranged, and then I remembered the last time I saw Jesus. He'd come to visit and kept fiddling with the 
stuff on my dresser. 

I swear; I could've taken a ruler to the spaces and they'd have all matched up. Around his feet were 
five coins, in a half-moon shape, all quarters. I felt rich. On top of his head, like a halo, was a plastic pull 
from a cigarette pack. Now that surprised me; I never picked up smoking, so he must have brought in the 
pull. 

Running parallel to the happy guy he'd placed two matches, one with head down, the other with head 
up. Below the quarters he'd lined up a used sucker stick that had lint all over it. 



52 



I stared at the picture for a minute, trying to figure out the pattern and thinking of Jesus. I realized 
how bummed I really was that he'd been picked up. The last time I'd seen him, he was excited about some- 
thing he'd read, something I'd inadvertently turned him on to. He was trying to see the connection between 
Jesus and Buddha, mostly because I'd given him the quick history of Buddhism one day while we were 
working college students for spare change. 

"So it's all about suffering; is that all you see?" 

When he had asked me that, I kind of jumped in my chair. "No, I guess the suffering means some- 
thing, like it makes life whole or something. I don't really know, Jesus. All I know is that in this life we have to 
get it right, or else you repeat it. Or maybe that's reincarnation. I get confused." I scratched my face, think- 
ing for a minute. "All religions are connected. The only differences seem to be after you die." 

Jesus chuckled. That's when I noticed the new lines around his eyes and how bird-like his body was 
getting. I started to wonder if he was sick or something or maybe just getting old. We all get old quick on the 
hill, old and tired. 

"Well, I don't know about getting it right, but I haven't done much in my life one way or another. I just 
try to spread the word, but I think I've forgotten what the word is." 

It was after that day that I saw him on the street, almost jumping out of his skin with excitement. He 
was carrying a book, a big dusty looking thing he said he had gotten from the Mick. He didn't tell me what it 
was, just that reminded him of what the word was. Needless to say, I promptly forgot his vague excitement 
until Joey mentioned that the cops had picked him up. I decided that my goal for the day was to find out 
about Jesus to ask him about the message he'd left on my dresser. 

I pulled out some sort of fresh clothes from the top drawer of my dresser. I hadn't changed in about a 
week, and my room didn't involve any sort of shower. The building I was in used to be some old hotel, but the 
city condemned it a long time ago. The guys who took it over fixed it up for low rent; they let me stay for free 
because they felt sorry for me, but not quite sorry enough to let me use the bathroom every so often. The 
wheelchair has its advantages sometimes, when I need somewhere to stay, but I hated the lie. Besides, if 
you gotta take a leak in an alley littered with the homeless, and you're in a wheelchair, you can't just stand up 
and piss. It's a bitch, but a guy's gotta do what he's gotta do, I guess. 

I got dressed in the uniform for our side of town, jeans and a T-shirt with some beer logo on the front 
and a titsy girl on the back. I combed through my hair with my fingers. It felt like straw; I'd bleached it months 
before in an attempt to look a bit different if, say, Joey came asking after me. Sometimes the wheelchair has 
its disadvantages, too, because different hair doesn't erase it in people's minds. 

I sat back in the chair and wheeled into the hall. People were walking back and forth, but nobody 
noticed me or said anything. This place always seems to have a thousand people all the time, moving like 
ants at a picnic. They never really slow down and just sit. They just scurry along, usually in a straight line, 
unless I'm in the hall, then they swerve just enough to go around. 

At the end of the hall, I stopped to get on the old elevator. When I got on, I noticed that there was 
stuff in the corner. I hit L, let the elevator go about a floor, and then pushed the emergency stop. I got down 
on the floor to look at the little shrine in the corner. It was a smaller version of the Buddha in my room, sitting 
back on his haunches with a grin. On the floor around him was the same array as on my dresser, just slightly 
different stuff. Instead of quarters, there were pennies. Instead of matches, there were silver bobby pins. 




'Untitled, American Legion Post 135, 2005," M. F. Greco, Photograph 



53 



The cigarette wrapper had become the pull from a paycheck. The sucker stick was an unused coffee stirrer. 

I squatted down and picked it all up, wondering when Jesus could have done it and why no one had 
messed with it. When I got back in the chair, I stashed everything in the bag I have on the back. For some 
reason, leaving it there felt wrong. 

I kicked the panel with the floor buttons, and the emergency stop button popped back out. I pushed L 
again and descended to the world. 

I rolled out into the lobby and stopped to think. I decided to go to the Mick first, figuring he'd know 
about Jesus. The Mick holds court in a rundown house about six blocks from my building, up the hill that 
eventually goes back down toward the college. My building is downhill from his, so I geared up for the ascent 
to his house. 

He'd been there forever. I'd hit the streets ten years before; he was more than comfortably situated 
by then. The cops never went near his house. I don't know if he paid them off or if they just didn't really care. 
The Mick was fairly harmless, he barely broke the law with the gambling; he didn't deal, and he didn't pimp. 
Furthermore, he doesn't condone people who do. He always said there were levels of sin. 

When I got to the house, I stopped to pick up a rock. There was a short flight of stairs to the door and 
if someone was on the porch, they'd usually help me up. No one was out, so I chucked the rock at in the 
general direction of the doorbell, hoping not to break the little window beside the door. Luckily, with my 
perfect aim, I managed to hit the door, not the window. 

The Mick opened the door a crack and looked out. All I could really see was a tuft of white hair and 
one wide-open, bloodshot eye. When he saw it was me, he came out onto the porch. He was wearing a 
white T-shirt, pristine, and black pinstriped pants. His stomach hung over his waistband like the sun, eclips- 
ing his feet anytime he looked down. 

"Stanley. How's business?" He leaned against the railing leading up the stairs. 

"It's fine, Mick. I had an interesting visit this morning from Joey Jakes. Know anything about that?" 

He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows in innocence. "No, man. I haven't seen Joey since 
they got Jesus Freak last night. What did he want." 

Ahh, which to start with? I wanted to hear the news about Jesus, but didn't want to seem too desper- 
ate. Oh well, plow right in as my mother always said. 

"What exactly happened to Jesus last night?" 

The Mick chuckled. "Well, as usual, he was betrayed by the one closest to him. Well, not really 
closest. Joey called in a tip about vandalism, and then the cops came. Simple enough, but they found him 
beaten to a pulp." The Mick's smile drew down. 

"So, you threw the odds then set him out for the wolves?" Admittedly, I was pissed. Bad enough 
Mick cheated, but I couldn't figure out why the Mick would have him beaten. He'd never done that sort of 
thing before. 

"I don't like that one bit. I never meant for him to be hurt. He was a sacrifice of sorts, but he was 
supposed to go down quiet and smooth. He even knew what was coming. I told him last week to prepare 
him, and I gave him a book to pay him off. I didn't have him beaten, just arrested." 

"What was the book?" 

The Mick sat on the stoop. "Nothing important, just something I got at the college library book sale. 
Some book comparing Buddhism to Christianity, showing the history of both." 

I sat back in my chair, realizing that I'd been leaning forward the whole time. My back muscles 
moaned, reminding me that I'd climbed the hill. The Mick refused to look at me while I stretched, pity dripping 
from his eyes. 

"Well, is Jesus in jail or is he in the hospital or what?" I asked. 

The Mick looked at me for a moment. "What business do you have with him, Stanley? He owe you 
money or something?" 

"Nope, just curious. Joey visited me this morning and brought it up, so I came up to find out the 
whole story." 

The Mick's eyes brightened up. "What did Joey want with you?" 

I told him about Joey waking me up, shaking me down. He barely moved during the story, but his 
face was cloudy. "Well, I didn't send him. By my books, you paid up on the last deal and haven't been back 
in a while. I've missed your company, kiddo." He sat down on the first step. "I gotta talk to that Joey about 
freelancing. I've been hearing lots of things about bully tactics. His freelancing is messing with my business." 

Admittedly, it was hard to take the Mick's business too seriously sometimes, at least until Jesus got 
hurt. I'd had respect for the man before he admitted to throwing his games; he was usually fair about money, 
and he never demanded more that his due. Sometimes he let me crash at his place when I was too tired to 
wheel back to the hovel in the sky. He was a generally good guy, so I could see how Joey's newfound sense 
of freedom was bothersome for him. He didn't want the good thing he had going to become a complication, 
and he certainly didn't want the cops to notice his trade. I guess the Mick was right; some sins are worse 
than others. 

The Mick grinned, flashing some very tobacco stained teeth. "You know, Stanley, I've always liked 
you. I could use you in the business; the cops never notice cripples. Maybe I should kick Joey out, bring you 
in. " 

"No man, you know I can't do that. It's just the betting. I don't wanna get into anything involving 
money collection. Seems wrong." I regretted letting that slip. 

"Ah, so the Butcher has a conscience. Interesting. All these years, I always figured you for another 
guy on the streets." 



54 



I laughed. "For the most part I am. I do want to talk to Joey though, ask him about Jesus. I wonder 
about that beating. Know where he is?" 

"I don't know, kiddo. All I know is he is nowhere near the college. Stay away from there." He stood 
up to go back inside. 

I smiled. "Thanks. Mick. Sorry about being mad. but I just want to talk to this girl." 

"Right. Come back later: I got a fresh game to bet on. There's some weird stuff lately on the street, 
weird like Jesus Freak. Something about statues. I'm looking into it." 

I'd been rolling backwards to get ready to take off. not really listening, until I heard statues. "What 
kind of statues?" 

"I don't know yet. just people been finding some weird little statues. You seen any?" 

I shook my head. Mick shrugged his shoulders, smiled, twiddled his index finger goodbye in my 
direction, and then went back inside to his bookkeeping and soaps. 

I coasted down the hill toward the school, figuring the Mick was protecting his guy. or he had some 
other interest in Joey in light of Jesus. My arms still ached from the climb up the hill to the Mick's house, so I 
was kind of glad Joey was downhill from me. When I got to the campus. I decided to start with the gym locker 
room, mostly cause I could've used a shower. Another advantage of a wheelchair is that college students 
don't question your presence in their space. 

After my shower. I tried to decide where on campus to start looking for Joey. I thought about the 
quad, and then I thought about Joey coasting for allies. If he was going to take on the Mick, he needed some 
help, and college kids were always easy to persuade. Jesus and I used to talk them into helping us all the 
time. We'd look for the ones who'd volunteer at the weekly Hari Krishna free food-a-thon. They always were 
willing to do anything to feel like they'd changed the world. 

As I rolled to the quad. I thought about how Jesus found out my secret. He'd run into me outside of a 
diner close to the hovel. He talked me into going in with him. saying I looked like I could use some cheering 
up. 

The tired waitress took us to a booth so I could sit at the edge, took our drink order, coffee for both. 
and left. I grabbed a menu, just to have something to look at other than his face. Jesus sometimes made me 
want to hide, like he could read all of the bad things going on in my head. He pulled a pack of crushed 
cigarettes out of the top pocket of his Goodwill special shirt, along with a box of kitchen matches. He tapped 
a cigarette out of the pack and lit it. exhaling heavily after the initial drag. I kept staring at the pictographic 
menu designed for the tired, drunk, or uneducated masses that frequent diners in the seedy part of college 
towns. I focused on the picture of a smiling pancake, the kids' sunny-side up special. I tried to mimic the 
bacon strips and pulled my lips up into a grin. 

I looked over at him. trying to see if my attempt at a pleasant facial expression was working. He was 
looking at me. as if reading my mind. 

"Stanley." he started, hesitantly. "I know all about you." 

My smile faded. "What do you mean?" 

Jesus sighed, sadness expelling from his lungs with the smoke. "Stanley. I know your secret. What I 
don't know is why." 

The waitress returned with our coffees and a handful of creamers. She asked if we were ready to 
order, her nose wrinkled as if she could smell our lack of mommy and daddy's money. Jesus told her to give 
us some time. I took a sip of the hot coffee, trying to clear my head, trying to clear the dullness from the 
shock. 

"Ok. So what's my big secret?" 

Jesus smiled placidly. "Well. I know you can walk." 

I nodded at him to go on. while I sipped some more of the coffee. 

"I figured it out when you wore those wool socks I gave you for Christmas." 

"How?" 

Jesus smiled brightly. Apparently she had paid attention to the sunny-side up special. "You would 
complain about your feet itching." 

"How did he know about me?" 

I laughed at that. I had been covering my tracks so well, but I trusted Jesus. I got comfortable 
around him. at least enough to admit to potential athlete's foot. "Well, good for you. your brain cells fire more 
often than I gave you credit for. after all." 

Jesus scowled. "I don't think it's funny. Why do you keep yourself in that chair?" 

I sat looking out the dingy window, trying to understand why I was staring out the dingy window 
instead of coming clean. Jesus lit another cigarette, and the waitress returned for our orders. I dimly heard 
Jesus tell the waitress that we'd only be having coffee. 

We sat in silence. I thought about Jesus and my Buddha. I swallowed down the fear and the dregs 
of my now cold coffee. Our waitress really sucked. 

"I got the wheelchair from my mother's garage before I left home. It was my grandmother's, but she'd 
died." 

Jesus tugged his earlobe. "Why'd you take it?" He sipped her coffee. "Was it to make sure you'd 
make money panhandling?" 

I looked over at him. "No. I took it because I had to see what it was like, stuck in a chair." 

I felt my heart racing and my face growing red. Jesus raised his eyebrows, silently asking me what 
my problem was. My problem was big. There was no reason for me to tell Jesus any of this. I tried to decide 
whether or not I should just move on. There was no reason for me to be sitting there. All of a sudden. I felt 



55 



an urge to stand up and run out of the restaurant. 

This time, Jesus really did read my mind. "Stanley, don't be scared. I'll keep your secret. I'm mostly 
just curious." 

That seemed to work; my life story tumbled out of my mouth. I told him how I'd put my sister in a 
wheelchair when she was ten and I was sixteen. I stuck around for a couple of years after that. Mom had her 
put in a home, and I visited her everyday. No one blamed me. It was an accident. 

We had been playing in the woods; I was teaching her how to camp before she went on her summer 
trip with the Girl Scouts. She really wanted to get her badges that summer; it was all she talked about. We 
were crossing a stream, well, more like a small river. She slipped. I ran to get help, and once we got her out 
of the water, and the ambulance got there, she'd woken up, but she couldn't move her legs. The doctors told 
us that she wouldn't be able to walk and something about hitting her back just right on the rocks. No one 
blamed me. 

I left because I couldn't face her anymore. She could move her arms a little, but her legs were 
shriveled little branches, limp and useless. I wanted to trade with her. I wanted to punish myself since no 
one else would. 

After I told Jesus the story, he sat quietly, sipping his coffee the waitress finally refilled. Finally, he 
spoke. "No one blames you." With that, Jesus stood, pulled me from the table, left a five for the crappy 
waitress, then pushed me out, past the empty booths, past the empty hostess station, out to the empty street. 

After that, Jesus never mentioned it again. We stuck to amateur religious debates and discussion of 
the weather. He was good on his word; he never told anyone the secret. I owed him. 

When I got to the quad, I decided to sit in the sun and keep an eye out for Joey. It seemed strangely 
deserted, then I realized that it was Sunday. Kids were all asleep in their dorms. 

I hadn't seen my sister in ten years. I didn't know whether or not she was still alive. I started sweat- 
ing, realizing that she might have really lost it when I left. I wouldn't blame her, really; I never said goodbye, 
just stole our dead grandmother's wheelchair from the garage and wheeled out of her life. I abandoned her, 
and I abandoned my mother. 

I thought about Buddha. He always smiled, even though he preached suffering as a natural way of 
life. He danced his way into sainthood, waving his hat at his followers. At least, that's what the little statues 
tell me. All I could figure was the Buddha means calm, but not stagnant boredom. 

After a while, I heard someone walk up behind me, the grass crunching underfoot. I smelled des- 
peration and old sweat. Joey. I slowly turned the chair around in the manicured grass to face him. We 
locked glares. He flashed his shark teeth. I kept stoney faced. Any minute, I thought, we'll draw and shoot. I 
started wondering if it was high noon on the quad. 

Finally, Joey broke the silence. "Hi, Stanley." 

I nodded. 

"What're you doing here?" he growled. 

"I want to know what happened to Jesus." 

"What do you care?" 

I rolled over his foot, then tried not to laugh when he cursed. "I care because he'd my friend. He's 
not some playing piece in one of your games with the Mick. 

Joey grimaced, still rubbing his toes. He looked like a pissed off stork. "What game you mean, my 
walleyed, crippled friend." 

Ignoring the insults, I went on. "Why did you beat him up?" 

Joey pulled up his yarmulke to scratch his bald spot. "You ever read about Job?" 

I nodded. 

"Well, I wanted to see if he'd help me out against the Mick. We need a change of scenery on the hill. 
Well, Jesus refused. I mean, the Mick threw his bet, threw him out to the pigs. I just wanted to help him out." 

"So, putting him in the hospital helped him how?" 

Joey's eyes darted around. "He said no. He said he didn't owe any allegiance to anyone. He kept 
babbling about some Zen shit, something about life unfolding and being neutral." 

Jesus had taken up Buddhism with a vengeance. I felt a prickle at the corner of my left eye, a tear for 
getting Jesus into that mess to begin with. I should never have told him why I kept that Buddha, that re- 
minder of suffering. 

Joey stared at me, starting to smile. He'd finally stopped pouting over his foot. "Speaking of which, 
you wanna go into business. I could use someone to roll with, someone who knows how to bring people to 
their knees." 

I rolled over his other foot, bringing him to his knees. "You mean like this, Joey. No. Like Jesus, I 
don't owe anyone anything. Besides, I think I need to get off the streets for a while." 

I rolled backwards away from Joey, keeping my eyes on him. He stayed put, rubbing his foot, face 
' keot moving backwards, then turned around and rolled back downhill to the Mick's. 

len I got there, the Mick was on the front stoop, playing golf solitaire. He looked down at me, 
Tie to start talking, 
s Jesus, Mick?" 

. "He's at the university hospital. That's the only place that would take him in with no 
insu, 

tly what happened, don't you?" 

s eyes tired and drooping. "I know how it looks, Stanley. I just couldn't have 
Joey takin. omers. He's out of the business now, though. Jesus didn't deserve that on 



56 



account of Joey's ego." 

I sat there for a while, watching the Mick finish his game. He cheated four times, making sure he'd 
win. I wasn't terribly surprised. 

"Stanley, none of this really matters in the long run. I know this. You and Jesus have the right idea. 
Just keep out of it. I'll settle Joey." 

I nodded and stood up. The Mick dropped his flip deck on the porch as I walked up the three stairs. 
He stood up, and I put my hand out for him to shake. He took it. I turned around and left him standing on the 
porch. 

I walked up the hill. The sun framed the hospital, giving the building a silver lining. I walked in and 
asked for Jesus Freak's room number. The nurse told me. I never would have thought that was his real 
name. 

When I walked into the room, Jesus winked at me. He patted the space left on his hospital bed. We 
talked about suffering. We talked about Joey and the Mick and their little games. We talked about the 
weather. Finally, we talked about my sister. I left Jesus there, satisfied that he'd be fine without me. I walked 
out of the hospital and back down the hill to my new life. 



57 




"Rhinocerangel," Dean Miller, Ink on Fine Paper 



58 




'Untitled," Elizabeth Bedell, Mixed Media 



59 




"Untitled," Digital Photograph, Luciana Caniero 



60 



Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Poetry 



The Shotgun Blast Toe-Tap 

by John Stockel 



dance with me as i play the shotgun blast 

toe-tap your way to heaven 

smoky winding jazz bar blues guitarist sets the tempo 

for the dance 

the strung out white faces eyes closed 

snapping fingers in time with the drip drip drip drip 

of the saline waterfall runoff cover-up 

as she dances around the room and expects everything of no one 

but perfection in the sensual swaying of her hips and the flow of her step 

this night is her perfect performance 

silent standing ovation as she takes one last bow 



61 



History of the Motion Picture 

by Rob Adair 

1400 watts of light broke through the darkness 
What was once... A still-life portrait of a fading dream 
Scratched out words in a notebook with broken seams 
A cover with smeared black ink 
The perfect story 

Memories long forgotten and buried 

Decaying on love's battlefield 

After a long fought war 

The dust settled and the firefight ceased 

Too many lost lives 

It ends with a treaty 

"You're right, maybe we aren't meant for each other" 

You said I don't understand 

"This pain can only be carried by me 

It's not your fault but just let me be!" 

I surrender and remain wounded 

Yet refuse care, my wounds only worsen 

Now that you are not there 

The dream has now vanished 

For it was only a dream 

A portrait remains stagnant 

Staged in a picturesque fantasy 

The smiles a facade 

The joy a masquerade 

Anything to hide the truth of our ways 

{Enter stage left} 

A rate of 48 frames a second 

A spectrum of black and grays 

This is my Casablanca, my Charade 

Talk of conquest over coffee 

Stupid jokes and political conspiracy theories 

Between the awkward silence 

It's you and me on the silver screen 

Waltzing through our thoughts and dreams 

The perfect story could not be written 

It can only be lived 

Forget the orchestra and the on cue tears 

Bring forth the cheap dinners 

The long drives to nowhere 

How it ends is yet to be seen 

But I thank God 

That even if it was just for a moment 

You've cleansed me of the fears I once carried 



62 




"Scattered Fiction," Mia Montgomery, Silver Gelatin Print 



63 



Love Knows No Time 

Travis J. Wallace 



My girlfriend told me she LOVE me 

we've been together five months and she already LOVE me 

I's only five if I stretch it a little, 

but since the first time I saw her pretty face there was LOVE in the middle 

so that leaves her and I and the end 

so we had a menage a and from the trois relations began 

at first she didn't wanna let me in 

but if LOVE knocks once I's not leavin' like Jehovah's witness 

at least let me appeal to emotion's senses 

wrap you in LOVE like a Hershey's kisses 

take the wrapper off cause I's so delicious 

and now I feel like she could be my Mrs., and I could be her Mr. Buddy LOVE 

so Ms. Purdy give your man a hug, or better yet tell Rudy that my name ain't BUD 

but my last name Jones and my first is LOVE 

so if your last name Jones then I LOVE to hug LOVE to kiss in time reminisce 

of how this rose bud blossomed and lead to bliss, SWEET SADIE, 

reminiscent of a lady, Holiday Billie singin' songs that sway me 

01' school R&B songs of LOVE makin' 
Ordinary People livin' LOVE amazing, 
Amazing LOVE livin' in Hearts places 
In LOVE and out I feel like I trade places 
In LOVE I stay with BEAUTY amazing 
In LOVE I stay with a mind thas adjacent 
In verse I write my passion to MY LADY. 



64 



Merry-Go-Round of a Memory 

by Mia Montgomery 



I cut the moon in half 

And stole the stars 

I placed them all on sticks 

And went around the merry-go-round 

Did you forget that time 

Time of childhood games 

Whistles, plastic cars, and it's all the same 

Let's do it again 

I cut the moon in half 

And stole the stars 

I placed them all on sticks 

And went around the merry-go-round 

All to see if you would remember again 

But you didn't make a sound 

Watching the broken moon fade away 
Sparked an old memory of . . . 

Never growing up 

Staying in my field of ladybugs and hugs 

Rolling around on the lawn 

Staying up till dawn 

Come back to the dream 

Of bursting lights of fireflies, 

The moon, and the stars 

Let them collide into our 

Everyday morning glory of sunshine 

Let's make them blissfully ours again 



65 



Woman 

by Autumn Flynn 



Feet in the stirrups, at the wall I squint, 

Where a dancer's poise appears effortless. 

Degas' dame leaps, not a step does she miss, 

As I (and this belly fat with life) lament. 

It was a cruel trick to hang such a print 

In an obstetrician's office like this 

Next to posters of ovarian cysts 

And women with cups over toilets bent. 

"This is woman," whispered she to me. 

What did she know with her quaint pointed toe, 

Rosettes and tulle skirt floating about her? 

"Under my satin slippers lie gnarled feet 

From hours of practice and bone-breaking woe. 

Discomfort is woman." That, I concur. 



66 




'Untitled," Digital Photograph, Luciana Caniero 



67 



Truth 

by Erin Christian 

As each blade of grass and the petal of every flower is cleansed after the kiss of morning dew, thus am I 
renewed after I close my eyes and my soul meets yours. 

I melt under your smiling gaze as softly as ice sickles thaw when winter is in its death throes; my walls trickle 

down into meaningless puddles leaving me 

vulnerable 

bare 

warm 

eager 

open 

To hold your hand in mine is to take hold of all the world and all its splendor, it is to know what it is to truly be 

alive 

and feel the vibrant electricity of life coursing through my veins. 

To dance with you is to dance among the stars and know no bounds of earthly time or reason, but to surren- 
der 

with wild abandon 
to the eternal music of the universe and lose myself in its pounding rhythm. 

To know you is to know no fear, but to feel worries and doubts weakly submit themselves to be consumed by 
the flames of lust for adventure. 

To hear you sing 

with the joy in your heart 

resounding with such a force, as if all the earth were rejoicing with you, 

brings crystal tears of passion streaming down my cheeks. 

To say we have seen three years pass since we first spoke 

is to say we've but lived in the blink of an eye compared to all of the changing seasons that lay before us 

let me change and grow with you. 

Your love 

your friendship 

your soul is so bright 

strong 

and full of promise 

that I yearn to bask in its light forever. 



68 



Sunset 

by John Stockel 

every day i 

search for the one 

girl who i can give my life to 

and every night i find her 

right where i left her 

in my dreams 

and when i wake 

up in the morning 

i understand why the sun 

can only take sitting still for so long 

before heading back to sleep 

to make way for the moon 

but i still 

dont understand 

how you can kiss me 

and strip me of my clothes 

soaking wet from discovering angels 

in the freshly fallen snow of your front yard 

only to kiss me goodbye nine short hours later 

as i board a 747 back to the Georgia Sun 

and you somehow forget all about me 

in the midst of a time difference 

that keeps me up one extra 

hour past happiness 

to pretend i can 

sit and watch 

the sunset 

fade with 

you 



69 




"Untitled," Crystal Poole Dummitt, Silver Gelatin Print 



70 



Adventure 

by Erin Christian 

I opened my bloodshot eyes and beheld a new world 

I saw a rose colored dawn break over a never before seen horizon and after seemingly endless sleepless 
torment, I felt the unfamiliar stirring of joy within my breast. 

I had endured hours of rocking and shaking, listening to those around me snore in their peaceful repose, 
doubting and fretting, crying and regretting, all to find hope in clouds bathed in ethereal golden light. 

Emerging from an everlasting night of darkness and despair, I absorbed the promise of the dawn in my soul 

and allowed adventure to seduce my heart again. 

I was in a silver capsule, hurtling across tracks and through tunnels toward a destination the farthest from 
home I'd ever been, a destination I never dreamed I'd reach. 



71 



Heroes 

by Joe O'Connor 

It was in times past that heroes would carry swords. They would hold their shields high to protect their broth- 
ers in line. When the time came to push the enemy back together, these men would march, confident that 
their brothers would protect them. Men would fall to protect their brothers in arms. 

In those days, men were to come back carrying their shields high or being carried on them. It was better that 
a man died than for him to have thrown his shield away, for in throwing away his shield, he threw away his 
brother's life. Men who died to protect their brothers were revered; those who froze in panic were unmention- 
able. 

Men in the days of yore knew war. They could smell it on the wind, that grand fire which men crave. They 
could hear it in the bellowing of their kinsmen. They would see the foe and know him. Men on both sides were 
just that: men. After the battles they would go home to bask in the love of their families. They would cherish 
their wives and play with their children and they would not take these happy times for granted. These memo- 
ries would be their lifeblood on the plains of war. They would fight in hopes they would return for more happy 
times but with the foreknowledge that fate might have other plans. 

It was all in the hands of their brothers on those battlefields long ago. Today is no different. 



72 



Don't Give Me 

by Amanda Mathis 



I must be strong, 

(I don't want the flag.) 

I must pretend, 

(Please don't give me the flag.) 

It can't be. 

(Don't play the horn - that sad, sad song.) 

My ears cannot stand it; 

My heart hates it. 

I love you - 1 don't want it past tense. 

I need you - Why can't you stay? 

This was always a possibility, 

but why now, but why ever? 

(Don't give me the flag.) 

The regulation folding, 

The stern, but sympathetic soldiers before me- 

My heart is never to be the same now that 

I have the flag. 



73 



Creating a New Dream 

by Mia Montgomery 

I wanted to take you in 

And be lost in you 

You gave me a reason 

To lose count of the stars 

And each dream I had wished upon them 

I don't want the empty spaces in my life 

To win 

Open up all my doors 

Clean out the webs and traps 

Open up a new beginning for me 

You will have to run to the middle 

While I walk 

'Cause right now I'm walking with a limp 

I'm trying to keep my heart steady 

As I get ready 

To meet you in the middle 

When we meet 

I'll make a new wish upon a star 

And create a new dream 



74 







'Untitled," M. F. Greco, Photograph 



75 











J 




alliope 



2007 



Armstrong Atlantic State University 

Volume XXIII 




taff 



Editor 



Stephanie Roberts 



Art Editor 



Allison Walden 



Poetry and Fiction Staff 



Erin Christian 
Britney Compton 
Emily Mixon 
Joe O'Connor 



Art Staff 



Amanda Altenauer 
Tyler Jordan 



Faculty Advisor 



Dr. Christopher Baker 



Calliope is published annually by and for the students of Armstrong Atlantic State 
University. The Student Government Association of AASU provides funding for each 
publication. Student submissions are collected dirough the fall semester for the 
following year's publication. All submissions are read and chosen through an anony- 
mous process to ensure equal opportunity for every entrant. The Lillian Spencer 
Awards are presented for outstandmg submissions in fiction, poetry and art. The 
recipients of this award are chosen by the staff from the student submissions received 
that year. 



Calliope 2007 submission guidelines: Regardless of medium, each entrant is limited to 
five submissions. Each entry must have a completed submission form. To ensure 
anonymity during the selection process, the Calliope staff asks that you not include your 
name or any identification on your submitted work. If submitting large art pieces, please 
attach a removable index card with your information on the back of your work. 

For more information, or if interested in working on the 2008 Calliope staff, please 
contact Dr. Christopher Baker in the Languages, Literature and Philosophy department 
located m Gamble Hall. 




ontents 



Fiction 






Randall 


Dave Williams 


6 


Facing the Beast 


Mandy Rowe 


13 


Breaching the Gaps 


Victoria Miller 


16 


Resistance 


Virginia Gribben 


28 


Baby Doll 


Leah DiNatale 


31 


Die Gurke 


Joe O'Connor 


40 


Ode to the Help Desk 


Michelle Crabb 


48 


Toms Wigs 


Jie Chen 


58 


Gretel 


Chris Bruchette 


65 


For Better or for Worse 


Erin Christian 


69 


First to Burn, Then to Freeze 


Stephanie Roberts 


79 


Queen Wasp 


Virginia Gribben 


91 


The Fear of Stocking 


Alex J. Sandoval 


99 


Poetry 






Pseudonym 


Jessica Martinez 


11 


Mother Nature s Garden 


Elena Fodera 


26 


His Protest 


Jessica Martinez 


38 


Warsaw, 1943 


Kevin Daiss 


56 


Fireflies 


HaiDang 


67 


My Gramma's Kitchen 


Kelly Arno 


89 


Salt 


Jessica Martinez 


103 


Mirror 


Elena Fodera 


105 



Dagny 


Mia Montgomery 


5 


Geometrical Ma%e 


Chad Roberts 


12 


Altar 


Anita Brunner 


14 


Wood You Water Me 


Greg Ferrell 


15 


Lunar Moth 


Luciana Carneiro 


27 


Meagons Hill 


Greg Ferrell 


29 


The Runny Who Gave up Life 


Anita Brunner 


30 


Untitled 


Luciana Carneiro 


37 


Solitude 


Greg Fe rrell 


39 


Classical Martini 


Chad Roberts 


47 


al-Maghribij/yah 2 


Jeremy Windus 


57 


Blues Guitar in Red 


Luciana Carneiro 


64 


light 


Jennifer Henderson 


68 


Stuck in a Box Series 


Mia Montgomery 


76 


Dead Tree on Jekyll 


Chris McCormick 


88 


Thanksgiving 


Luciana Carneiro 


90 


Overlooking the Peloponnese 


Chris McCormick 


98 


Still Life 


Anita Brunner 


101 


Self Portrait 


Anita Brunner 


102 


World 


Jie Chen 


104 



Contributors 



106 




Dagny 

Chalk Pastel 

Zvlia Montgomery 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Art 



Calliope 5 



Randall 

Dave Williams 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Short Fiction 

Me and Randall, we is real good friends. I guess that we been friends since 
we could barely walk. Both of us grew up off Highway 25. Takes about 
twenty minutes to walk to his front door and I been making that walk all 
of my life. When you grow up out in the country, you pretty much latch on to whoever 
is around. I always known he was a litde crazy, but I guess that's 'cause his daddy ain't 
right. I once saw his daddy shoot one of Bill Johnson's cows in the face with an AK-47 
just to do it. Mama says that he sells drugs, but it sure don't seem like it. Seems like they 
is way too poor to sell drugs. Drug dealers on T.V. drive Bendeys and Mercedes. 
Randall's daddy drives an old beat up El Camino covered in rust. He used to drive a 
dune buggy. 

Randall stays pretty 7 quiet around other people, but when it's just the two of us he 
won't shut up. He's always going on and on 'bout hunting and Iron Maiden and stuff. 
Kids we go to school with don't really care bout that stuff. I suppose some of 'em like 
hunting but not the way we do it. They hunt deer. Them kids in high school don't 
always treat us so nice neither. We pretty much keep to ourselves. We used to eat lunch 
out in the parking lot with the rednecks until Keith Quarrels punched me in the chest. 
Those boys live in the mill village and they treat us like trash, so Randall and I decided 
to start eating in the cafeteria with the blacks and the preps. We'd sit by ourselves near 
the trash cans. That's where Randall loved to sit cause he could stare at Suzi Owens. She 
sat right in the middle of the preps, and Randall would just stare at her all throughout 
lunch. I'd try to talk to him about Stone Cold Steve Austin and guns and stuff, but he 
just kept talking bout Suzi. 

"What do you think her pussy tastes like?" he'd ask. "I don't know man. What's 
wrong with you?" He would just stare at her legs as we ate. "Bet it tastes like 
muscodines. Bet she uses so many lotions and keeps it so clean and stuff that it tastes 
like sweet sweet fruit." I had never tasted no girl before. Randall said that he'd had a 
bunch of girls, but the only girl I ever remember him spending time with was his cousin 
Chandi and she was just now thirteen. Chandi lost her arm when it got infected. It 
looked real gross at first. Now it's just a nub. 

Randall had found himself obsessed. I'd had a crush on a girl here and there 
growing up, like Carmen Electra or Chandi, but this was getting out of hand. Me and 
Randall would still hang out, but he wanted to do all kinds of freaky things. He tried to 
convince me to drive him over to Suzi's house on my four wheeler at midnight so he 
could go through their trash. He had himself convinced that if he could find some 
panties or a tampon or something that he could cast a spell over her. Like, he wanted to 
start a fire and listen to some Slayer and chant and all that. He was getting all kinds of 
perverted. I guessed that was 'cause his daddy wasn't right. 

I wasn't quite sure that Randall's daddy was selling drugs, but I figured he must 
have used them. He was up 'til all hours cleaning his guns and yelling at Randall. I found 
lots of them little flowers that you can get at the gas station all over their house. One 

6 Calliope 



time when mv Mama was real sad about my stepdaddy hitting her and all, I brought her 
one of them flowers on the way home from school. When I gave it to her she explained 
to me that drug smokers used them little glass pipes that the flowers came in to smoke 
their drugs. I guess they must make a pretty good pipe. People can be real sneaky like 
that. 

It was a Monday when Principal Wheeler announced over the loud speaker that 
Suzi had died. Kids was crying in the halls and stuff I didn't really know her real well. 
She never talked to me or even looked my way. I could just imagine Randall crying his 
eves out like a little babv and everybody wondering what was up. Suzi never talked to 
him neither. She was a cheerleader. She lived in a neighborhood with a gate. They build 
them gates to keep people like Randall out. I guess to keep Randall out of their trash. 

Suzi's daddv had been drinking and he ran a stop sign near the mall. He drove one 
of them big SUYs, but it didn't help 'em none when it flipped. He was a city council- 
man or something. Maybe he was a dentist. Tliey said that Suzi had died on impact. 
That made everybody feel better that she didn't have to suffer or nothing. People was 
saying that Suzi's daddy loved to drink. I thought everybody's daddy loved to dunk. 

They was planning on letting school out early for her funeral. They said that half 
the town was going to be there. I was gonna stay home and try to w r atch them dirty 
channels on the satellite that my stepdaddy kept locked. I knew that if I was alone for a 
while that I could figure out the code. 

When I ran mto Randall after shop class, I was pretty sure that he would be sad. 
Randall wasn't much for crying, but I expected him to seem depressed or something. He 
didn't seem like it had bothered him at all. In fact, he seemed pretty normal. That day 
we didn't sit in the cafeteria at lunch. Randall convinced me to skip die rest of the day 
and go back to my house 'cause my parents wasn't home. We hopped onto the short bus 
and caught a ride down Highway 25. The retards get out early from school and, if you 
act real quiet, the bus driver don't ask no questions. 

When we got to my house, Randall found my stepdaddy's vodka, Mr. Boston's. 
Then he got out a bottle of my Mama's Boone's Farm, and we mixed them up and 
drank some. I tried to figure out the satellite code, but I couldn't. Randall kept making 
toasts to Suzi Owens. I didn't know what to say to him, so I just kept on drinking. The 
funeral was going to be the next day, and I thought that Randall would go to it and get 
all his emotions out there. I told him that the viewing was gonna be that night and that 
he should go there and pay his respects to the Owens family. I don't really know if it 
was the Mr. Boston's and Boone's Farm talking, but I figured that they would appreciate 
Randall's condolences. 

"Are you crazy, man? They don't care what I have to say. Them people would look 
at me like I was some kmd of idiot. I might as well be black going up there sayin I'm 
sorry" I shook my head. "Randall, there's gonna be black people there. Half the town is 
gonna be there." Randall didn't seem to like what I had said. "Well, that will just make 
them feel worse to know that she was friends with them blacks anyway. First she dies 
and now this. They've gone through enough already." 

We laid around on the floor like we was good for nothing. The drinking had nearly 
put us to sleep by 3. At one pomt I thought I saw a tear running down Randall's cheek, 
but I was pretty drunk. Most of the day he seemed like he didn't mind at all. It wasn't 

Calliope 



like Suzi had ever really even looked in his direction except for to spit. Me and Randall 
ain't popular or nothing. We was in 4H for a while, but that don't make you popular. 

Then all of the sudden Randall jumped up like a ninja. "We gotta go down to that 
funeral parlor right now." I was stunned that he was even talking, let alone up on his 
feet and ready for action. "How you suppose we gonna get there, Randall?" I asked, and 
when I asked I nearly started vomiting all of my breakfast on the carpet. Randall 
grabbed me by the collar and stood me up. "I need to see her one last time. I suppose 
you ain't gonna stop me from that are you? We gonna take your four wheeler and some 
fishing poles, and if we see any police we'll just pretend like we was fishing." Randall has 
a way of getting real excited about stuff. When he gets all excited, it's hard to say no. It's 
like you get caught up in the way he is feeling. Like, you get all excited with him and like 
I said, I had been drinking "I don't know if I can drive nght now, Randall" He gave me 
a look, and I knew what he was thinking Before he could call me a sissy or a light- 
weight, I threw him my keys and within seconds we was slamming that screen door 
behind us and out on that road. 

The fall air always feels so nice. I guess it's kinda chilly but not cold. It just has a 
way of waking you up and kinda like reminding you that you is alive. It was slapping 
against the side of my face real fast like, and I was holding onto Randall across his 
stomach. I always did hate riding on the back. Even when we was just riding bicycles. 
Randall's daddy used to make fun of us and call us fags 'cause we rode like this. He said 
that it reminded him of prison. We never found that funny at all. This was the only way 
we had to get from one place to another, and we didn't like it neither. 

I watched the side of Randall's face, and I thought I saw another tear. It could have 
been cause we was riding so fast, and it could have been a bug or something. Randall 
wasn't much for crying. For a minute there, I felt real sorry for him. It was like he was 
something special to me. Like we was family or something. It was kinda like we was, 
because his daddy ain't nght and my stepdaddy is always beating on my mama. For a 
second there it felt like we was all that the other one had in the whole world. I felt real 
bad about Randall and about Suzi, and it seemed like it was even sadder that she had 
never even looked at Randall. Like there was this whole other universe out there 
somewhere where she had looked at him and they was married with kids, and like they 
had a nice house, like a double wide or something in one of them gated communities 
and I bet you that in Randall's dreams they did. Like the world, this world, had snatched 
that chance away from them, but in some weird way that would always keep it alive too, 
'cause now Randall would always have them dreams, forever. 

I was feeling real bad for Randall then we stopped at a gas station, and I puked 
while he hopped off and went inside. It was about five minutes before he had come 
back, and I had wiped all the sick offa my face with pages of the phonebook attached to 
the pay phone in the parking lot. "You ready? 'Cause we gotta have a plan." Randall 
yelled as he cranked my four wheeler back up. "I'm gonna go around back and you can 
go around front. I know there's a door where they drop off them bodies m the back, 
and I'm gonna sneak up in it. You go to the front and try to talk to whoever is in there 
about bodies and death and stuff. Tell them that you is a doctor and you need some 
brains to experiment on." I knew that this wouldn't work, but I was feeling so bad for 
Randall that I would have agreed to anything. Remember, I felt like we was family. 



Call: 



ope 



When we got to the mortuary, I was convinced that what we was doing was right. 
Randall hopped off and ran to the back of the building. I was all on my own. I was 
gonna have to distract the people that deal with them bodies while Randall paid his last 
respects, and I had no idea what to do. I stumbled to the front of the building and 
walked right in through the front door. This place had a weird smell like you wouldn't 
believe. It wasn't dead bodies or nothing, like rotting and all. That would be really gross. 
No, it smelled more like chemicals and odonzers and stuff. Kmda like that old folks 
home that my granny used to live in before she passed. 

The man at the front of the building was old himself, and he had his hair combed 
over on the top of his bald head like he was gonna fool people or something. "Hello 
son, what can I do for you?" He was a big tall fat man, and he was walking at me real 
quick. Now I don't know whether it was the chemical smell or the thought of all of 
them bodies, or just the Mr. Boston's, but I started feeling real sick again. I looked that 
old bald fat man in the eye and I began to say, "I'm a doctOOAAAHHH," but I was 
puking all down the front of his shirt and tie. He looked at me like I was less than 
garbage, and he called out somebody's name. Tins old lady came running from the back, 
and she was pretty disgusted herself because I heard her choking back some vomit. 

I put my head down in my hands for a second and then something struck me even 
funnier. Why would Randall want these people to be distracted? Why did we have to 
come here anyway? I know that he said that he wanted to say his last goodbyes and all, 
but why did he have to be alone? I began to think that he was up to somethmg that just 
wasn't right, and that made me wanna puke even more; I did. It was all beginning to 
make sense. Randall wasn't sad. I shouldn't have felt sorry for him at all. He wasn't 
crying. That boy was damn excited. He had just found himself an opportunity to do 
something nasty to that girl that wouldn't even look at him, and he was gonna take it. I 
was certam that Randall was back there havmg sex with that dead girl's body. 

I looked up and began running towards the back of the buildmg. I had to stop him 
before he had gone too far. When we stopped at that gas station, I bet he was buying 
one of them lubncated condoms. This wasn't all his daddy's doing neither. It was 
Randall who wasn't nght. As I ran down that mortuary hall, I began puking all along the 
way. I tned yelling Randall's name, but it was all gurgled by vomit. That old fat bald man 
started running after me, and that lady that must have been his secretary did too. 

My mama never did like me hanging out with Randall, and I should have listened to 
her. I mean, I like Iron Maiden and Hustler magazine and all, but Randall liked it more. 
It's one thing talking about her pussy and digging in her trash, but this was going too 
far. I guess that I am a Christian, and Jesus don't want nobody havmg sex with dead 
people. Still, you don't need Jesus to tell you that that just ain't right. 

Finally I had made it to tins tittle room that was lit all strange and soft, and there 
must have been flowers everywhere. There stood Randall in the middle of the room 
next to the casket. I thought that maybe he was applying lubrication or whispering some 
kind of demon words to the devil or something, but when I got closer I saw that he was 
crying tike a tittle baby. That old bald man grabbed us both by our collars and started 
screaming at us at the top of his lungs, "\ ou tittle bastards better get out of here before 
I call the cops!" I started puking again, and Randall grabbed somethmg out of his 
pocket. It was one of them roses that came in the drug pipes. Randall swung his elbow 



Call: 



ope 



around quick and caught that fat man in the neck. Then he took that drug pipe rose and 
placed it on Suzi's chest. 

I got to tell you. Suzi looked weird laying there all dead and stuff. She looked like 
her, but not like her at all. Randall screamed, "Run!" and the two of us took off out of 
there like a couple of bullets from his daddy's AK-47, aimed right at one of Bill 
Johnson's cows. We hopped on my 4-wheeler, and we was gone. This time we didn't try 
to take the mam roads. We tried cutting through the woods. There was several times 
when we almost hit a tree, but we was lucky to find a lot of trails back there and before 
we knew it we was back on Highway 25. 

Police don't usually come out here unless they is trying to catch out-of-towners 
speeding. You gotta be stupid driving dirough here. All them cops wanna do is make 
money off of them tickets. We was lucky that we made it home at all. 

Our ride back was real silent. Randall must have been sad, and I was just trying to 
get all of my thoughts straight. So he wasn't really trying to have sex with Suzi Owen's 
dead body He was just trying to pay his respects with that drug pipe flower and all. 
When we pulled up on my four wheeler at his daddy's house, Randall's daddy was sitting 
on the porch with a gun. "Don't y'all look fancy," Randall's daddy said as we climbed 
off into their yard. Randall's daddy had one of them accents that couldn't no one 
understand, and it was even worse when he was drinking. The only reason that I can 
decipher it is 'cause I been hearing him speak all of my life. 'You boys look like a nice 
fancy pair of San Francisco faggots," Randall's daddy laughed and pointed his AK-47 in 
our direction. We both knew that he wasn't going to shoot. He just liked to mess with 
our minds when he was drinking. "Go on inside and wax your bikini lines, girls. I think 
Oprah's on." At this pomt, he was just muttering to himself. 

Randall passed by his daddy without even looking. He pushed through the door 
and stepped on their dog jasper's tail on his way to his bedroom, jasper yelped and ran 
off. I followed Randall to his room. He kicked off his shoes real high. He laid down flat 
on his bed, and he wasn't even trying to hide the fact that he was crying. "AWW Shoot!" 
Randall sobbed as he reached into his back pocket. He grabbed the drug pipe that that 
flower had come in from the back of his jeans, and he looked up at me with these real 
sad eyes, "Hey Bo, can you put this on the table in there? My daddy likes to save them." 

All the nausea had passed through my body with the vomit, and I wasn't going to 
be sick no more. I looked into Randall's red watery eyes, and I almost wished that he 
would have done what I thought he was gonna do. That would have given him, at least, 
a little bit of satisfaction. Not the real him, but the Randall that I had imagined him to 
be when I thought that he was gonna do it. I almost wished that he would have done it. 
I figured diat it would have been much easier for me to face the sicko dead sex having 
Randall in the eyes than it was for me seemg him in this condition. 

I grabbed the drug flower pipe from his hand and walked into the other room. I 
saw Randall's daddy, through the window, taking aim at nothing m the darkness as he 
pretended to pull the trigger. It seemed like for some reason God had just taken a big 
old dump on Randall and me, and that life wasn't ever going to get much better, but that 
was just a passing thought. I walked back mto Randall's room and picked up one of his 
ninja stars. I started playing with it in my hand. Me and Randall, we is real good friends. 



10 Call: 



ope 



Pseudonym 

Jessica Martinez 

Lillian Spencer Award Winner for Poetry 

If I am Jessica Martinez, 
you might say to yourself, 
perched in an office high-rise, 
sky-blue tie and pen in hand, 
"I'm sick of all this Latino crap." 
So, I can be Jessica Martinez 
{sin acento) 
to dodge that. 

Or, better still, Jessica Martin — 
bastard child of a murky heritage: 
thick tongued, imposter — 
unagringa, least of all. 
Still, "Jessica. . Jessica," 
you might say to yourself, 
"I have an ex named Jessica. 
I don't like her much." 

So, J.M. Martin 

doesn't sound so bad — 

(no "e" no "z") 

J.M. Coetzee may agree. 

Besides, there is power 

in initials, in becoming 

unsexed, 

in engendering a new name. 

No matter — 

when I marry, I shall be 

Mrs. William English. 

English! (j of all apellidosX) 

J.M. English: writer (and/or wife). 

I might even have my husband 

call me bv my pseudonym, 

on the days I spend typing, 

to remind me who I really am. 

For Casey 



Calliope 1 1 




Geometrical Maze 



Drawing 
Chad Roberts 



12 Calliope 



Facing the Beast 

Mandy Rowe 

I stood there with a cold sweat dripping from my hairline just above my 
temple. I couldn't wipe it away; it would be a sign of weakness. I couldn't 
allow that, not at a time like this. My very life depended on it. Very slowly, I 
took a deep breath to calm mv nerves, and I noticed the Four-Eyed Beast raise an 
evebrow giving it an even more terrifying look. I knew, then, that there was no escape; 
the monster had caught me. I had to face her once and for all. 

I opened my mouth to let out a battle cry, but it quickly died on my lips as I heard 
a strange rumbling. It was coming from all around the monster. I suddenly remembered 
to my dismay we were not alone. This time she had brought her Hellhounds and 
demons to torment me. The rumblings were actually scratchy whispers of her demons 
trying to provoke me into attacking them. If I did that, it would be all over before it 
even began. 

"Look at him," said one demon to my right, "He's scared." 

Another laughed and quickly replied, "He should be." 

Suddenly laughter rang throughout the enclosed space, and I tried to remember 
how I had come to such a horrific place. Maybe I did some things I shouldn't have, and 
maybe I didn't do some things I should have. . .but that didn't make me a bad person. 
What did I do to deserve this? 

Okay, so maybe I went to school and drove my teachers up the wall. Maybe I did 
try to get every kind of work possible at home and in school. Maybe I was a jerk to my 
sisters and peers, but do I really deserve such torment? Such hell? How does this, in any 
way, make things right? It doesn't make my teachers sane again, and it certainly doesn't 
take back the awful acts I've committed or the terrible words I said. 

I suppose it did bring them some satisfaction. They knew where I'm at now. How 
could they not? The Four-Eyed Beast wanted a reckoning, and I'm sure her dominions 
carried her mission and desires far and wide. That's why the rumbling is so loud. They're 
all here. They have come to witness my downfall, but isn't it too late to learn humility? 

As the rumblings grew louder and louder with each passing moment I noticed the 
Beast becoming more agitated than before. I wished I could run away, but I knew the 
results would be ten times worse than this if I did. 

I looked into the masses around me, trying to find a friendly or understanding 
voice. Most didn't notice my desperate search. The beast did, and when my eyes met 
hers, she released a loud snake-like hiss. 

Her followers immediately grew silent, and I felt even more sweat roll from my 
brow. Oh, why did I skip her lecture? Why did I think she would let me get away with 
avoiding her horrid tests? 

"Well," she said, in a remarkably comforting voice. "Are you going to make-up 
your missed assignment or take a zero?" 

I squeezed my eyes shut and, when I finally reopened them, I stuttered out, "My 
book report is on Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. . ." 



Calliope 13 




Altar 

Metalwork 
Anita Brunner 



14 Calliope 




Wood You Water Me? 

High Fired Ceramic Sculpture 
Greg Ferrell 



Calliope 15 



Breaching the Gaps 

Victoria A/filler 

T\he bracken was waist high, swallowing up the forest floor as it twisted itself 
around the bases of the tighdy bunched trees. The beasdy weed was 
everywhere, engulfing anything in its path that dared to grow from the solid 
ground. Eyker had been walking for days, and not once did the bracken loosen its hold 
on the forest. Not even when a break in the trees revealed a small, wooden cottage 
resting alone in the middle of a clearing. 

The wooden walls of the minute structure had various small holes and gaps in 
several places, and the corners of the cottage had been fortified with large, gray stones 
which were crumbkng and covered in a soft greenish moss at the bottoms. The worn 
and dirty deerskins in the windows were drawn up halfway, and a wooden slab of a door 
hung slighdy ajar both invitingly and mockingly at the same time. From the archway of 
trees in which Eyker still stood, the partially open door revealed utter blackness like 
pitch but held the seductive lure of rest. 

Eyker slowly drew his longsword from the scabbard at his side. Slivers of sunlight, 
that had raped its way through the trees, gknted off the cool steel. The golden hilt was 
chilled but weighed heavily in his palm. It comforted him as though it were an extension 
of himself, having wielded the weapon from an early age. Cautiously, Eyker stepped out 
into the small clearing. The bracken brushed against his leather-embraced calves as he 
walked into the opening. A thrush sang sweedy nearby, but nothing else stirred except 
for the soft breeze that rustled through the leaves at random intervals. 

Eyker called out a greeting to bring out anyone who may Uve in the cottage, but 
was welcomed only by silence. There was a faint damp, putrid smell around the outside 
of the cottage; the wood had been taken over by fungus, which left it green and black in 
various places near the bottom of its foundation. Keeping his sword in hand, he pushed 
the rotting door open further with his other. The light spilled inside to illuminate the 
single room inside that was small but remarkably tidy. 

He ducked his head in order to pass through the threshold, but the ceikng was just 
high enough to let Eyker stand up straight without brushing the top of his helmet along 
the wood. There was a small bed with a creaseless green blanket, a table with two short, 
bulky chairs, and a few wooden chests. A pewter water basin sat upon the chest beside 
the bed. A day's worth of dust clung to the top of the chest, and there were a few small 
yellow flowers floating innocently on the surface of the water within the basin. 

Eyker removed his helmet from his head and ran his hands through the long, 
golden hair, now matted to his head with sweat. The cool air coming in through the 
windows caressed his scalp, soothing the discomfort that wearing the helmet brought 
through its protective confinement. He placed the intricate iron helmet with gold inlays 
beside the basin, causing the pewter to look dull against the silvery, brushed iron. The 
flowers appeared vivid with placidity beside the object that had saved him from various 
head wounds that would have made the Valkyries descend upon him in delight. 

His mind lingered on the Valkyries while he sheathed his sword. They were the 
captivatingly beautiful maidens who came to collect the fiercest of warriors who had 

16 Calliope 



died in battle. Some say that they appear before a warrior is meant to die, an omen that 
the three Norns had concluded their time was up. Eyker had yet to find a woman he 
would face death for, let alone Freya's Valkyries. When the need took him, any wench 
was good enough for that night; not even the Valkyries excited him anymore. 

Evker unfastened the brownish-gray wolf furs he wore for warmth, along with the 
green wool cloak he wore beneath it, setting both across the foot of the bed. Turning 
back to the chest, he lifted the pewter basin to his lips and let the shockingly cool water 
sooth his dry throat. His hands shook when he replaced the basin on the hard wood, 
spilling water over the rim, which left small puddles on the dark oaken surface. 

There was a gasp from behind him, followed by a crash as though die cottage 
behind him had just crumbled upon itself in freight. Eyker turned to face the woman 
staring back at him with a startled expression. Her curly red hair was plaited with 
strands attempting to escape their binds, and she wore a simple gray, wool gown that 
covered evervtlung from her neck to feet. Her face was pale, though how much was 
natural and how much came from her apparent fear of him was undetermined at the 
moment. Two bright green eyes locked with his in stubborn contempt. 

Keeping eve contact, she knelt down and grasped one of the small logs she had 
previously dropped at her feet. She wielded it in front of her with both hands like a 
sword, danng Eyker to move. When he took a step forward, she swung it at him, 
shouting "SheaA A dhiobhifr" The log resounded against his shoulder with a thud. 

"Gu leoiA" Eyker shouted back at her in her own Gaelic, ripping the log out of her 
grasp and dropping it carelessly behind him. "I'm not here to hurt you!" He rubbed his 
arm, lus lips curling into a frown. 

The woman opened her mouth before closing it agam. After a few more seconds, 
she spoke in a strenuous calmness that came through in a hesitant, "Who are ye?" Her 
voice was slightly husky with steady burr. 

'"Who are ye?' She says." Eyker muttered under his breath, kicking the log farther 
behmd him and completely out of her grasp. He eyed its companions scattered across 
the wooden floor with an inward groan. 

"Mock me all ye like, I do no' have anything better ta do." She crossed her arms 
and glared ferociously at him. 

He crossed his own arms and glared back, but his patience faltered with every 
moment that passed by, "My name is Eyker Olafson. My father is Olaf the Feared, }arl 
of Tygard. And you, elsklmgt What do I call you?" 

She frowned at him, blinking as though he were an apparition. Eyker was rewarded 
with die satisfaction that she could not understand what he had called her in Norse. If 
she knew it was a term of endearment, he'd wager she'd fly into a rage. He never 
thanked lus father for taking the time to teach him more than one language growing up, 
and now he wished he had. 

"Marsali," she said, taking in his height. He was taller than most of the men in the 
village. His hair was kissed bv die sun, and even now in the shade of the cottage it 
shone like spun gold hanging in waves to just past his shoulders. He had a short beard 
of the same color and the bluest eyes that Marsali had ever seen. He stood regallv in a 
parchment colored wool tunic and trews made out of the brown leather hides of some 
animal. His tunic didn't cover his arms, displaying two golden arm bands with sharp, 

Calliope 17 



angular symbols carved into them. She thought they were runic inscriptions, perhaps 
blessings to their pagan gods. 

"Ye speak Gaelic; I didna ken the Northmen could speak anything beyond Norse." 

Eyker flashed her a smile, "Do not confuse common prattle with truth. Some 
Norsemen have been well taught in many languages. How else do you think we extend 
our power over so many countries?" 

Marsah's eyes dropped to the sword strapped nonchalantly to his side, and she 
focused on it for the first time, taking in the sparkling gold hilt and the tiny arrow or 
spear shaped carving in the base of it, much like the ones that adorned his arm bands. 

He looked down at it and chuckled, "That is one way, aye. I do not come to rape 
and pillage, so you can stop eyeing me like I will attack you at any moment." 

Marsali laughed, though it lacked the presence of humor, "Ye expect me to trust a 
Northman? A Northman that, mind ye, has broken mtae my home and willna state his 
business?" 

Eyker scratched his bearded chin. "Have you ever been to Norway, Marsali?" 

"Nay. I've lived with . . . here all my life." She looked at the floor then, the first time 
she had truly removed her ga2e from him since she had entered the cottage. Taking it as 
a sign of reluctant acceptance of his presence m the cottage, Eyker moved toward her. 

Marsali remained completely still as Eyker circled her in a long, confident stride. He 
reminded her of a hawk acknowledging its prey before diving in for the kill. She wanted 
to see if he would attack her, and if he did, she would be ready for him. He came to a 
halt behind her. Marsah's right hand fisted around the small dagger that her father had 
given to her when she reached the age of ten. It would be a shame to cut the throat of 
such a handsome man. He looked sculpted out of bronze, a statue come to life. Were 
she to reach out and touch him, she wondered if he would be cool like a statue or warm 
like any other man. Marsali felt the sliver hilt of her dagger biting into her palm. 

"If ye are not going to raid us, then why are ye here?" 

His breath was warm on her neck, causing her to flinch. "We came for land," he 
whispered in her ear before turning away from her and sitting down in one of the 
chairs, wearing a secretive smirk. "The air is cold here like back home, but we cannot 
sail to salvage food during the winter, so we were sent to find a better piece of land." 

"Kenneth is trying to drive the Northmen out of the lands they have claimed as 
their own. The Shetlands. . ." 

"The Shetlands are no concern of mine, nor is Kenneth." Eyker waved it aside. 
"Where is your husband?" 

Jfnnn! Marsali had hoped he would not notice she was alone, "I have nay husband." 

Eyker crossed his arms again. "Aye? Well, then where is your father, brother, or 
uncle? Who is protecting you?" 

Marsali sighed, "I left my father at home." She peeked at him from under her lashes 
to find him expressionless. "He wished me to marry, so I left." 

"And you traveled alone?" He threw his head back and laughed. 

"Get out of here, A dhiobhil!" She picked up the nearest log and slung it across the 
cabin at him. 

Eyker scrambled out of the chair quickly enough to avoid being hit, "I am not 
leaving until my warriors arrive, and when they do we will leave together so that you can 

18 Calliope 



do whatever it is you are doing alone in the forest." Eyker was amused when Marsali 
stood on tiptoe to try to see out die window closest to her as though expecting an army 
of Norsemen to be standing right outside. The light was fading and the sulking shadows 
were moving slowly towards die center of the cottage. 

"Why are they no' with ye now?" Marsali asked in a calmed tone. 

Eyker's gaze dropped down to the table before him. Marsali started to wonder 
whedier or not he would answer her when his deep voice broke through the chilled 
silence, "They wished to visit the church." 

Marsali simply stared at him a moment before she could speak again. "Have they 
converted then? They have become Christians?" 

"Mayhap. I wished to be alone for a while and so I left before them, without armor. 
Except for that." Eyker pointed at his helmet, staring back with dark eye holes looming 
like a skull. "I figured I would give Odin his chance to prove to me his existence, to 
send an armv of Scots to challenge me alone, with nothing but my sword." Eyker drew 
his sword and laid it across the table. It was at least three feet long before meeting widi 
the gold hilt, which formed a kind of replica cross, but Marsali did not say so oudoud. 
He traced the spear shaped carving absently. "None came. I was denied my passage to 
Valhalla. Odin has grown weary of us, no longer caring if we convert or not into a 
religion that would have us bowing down to one God." Eyker looked up at Marsali 
before continuing "Our gods would never have us bow down like a thrall." 

Marsali fiddled with a crease m her dress, looking away from the intensity of 
Eyker's stare, 'Tour god, Odm, he's forsaken ye, and ye still do not wish to convert?" 
Eyker's laugh nearly made Marsali jump out of her skin. 

"My father was a known across battlefields as Odm the Feared. He tore through 
enemy warnors as though tliev were nothing. They called him a Berserker." Eyker 
looked back to his sword, and at the symbol upon it, "He would fight without armor, 
sometimes without clothing if he felt doing so would strike fear into the hearts of his 
enemies. He has many scars, but lived through every battle not feeling the wounds he 
may have received. He told me that our family was in the blessings of the War God, 
Tyr; this is his symbol." He traced the carving on the sword again. 

"Those blessed by Tyr would be victorious in batde. My father always believed our 
family would be welcomed into Valhalla, Odin's Great Hall that houses every fallen 
warrior who died fighting bravely and were to fight alongside Odin in the final batde of 
Ragnarok. And then one day my father grew far too old to wield a sword." 

"Did he..." Marsali bit her lip. 

"Die? Not before I left, though mayhap he has by now." Eyker noticed Marsali 
open her mouth to speak and continued before she could get in a word. "He sent me 
here. Like so many others, he had been thinking about converting for some time now. 
He wanted me to leave so I would not see his weakness." 

"Is it weakness to convert to Chnstianity?" Marsali asked m a bitter tone. 

"It is if you wait until you know you are going to die and only do so because you 
are afraid your own gods have forgotten you." Eyker had risen to his feet witiiout 
realizing he had done so. He calmly sat back down. "Now I am to be }arl and lead my 
men to do what is right, whatever it may be." 

Marsali's brow furrowed, and she crossed her arms in front of her. She hadn't 

Calliope 19 



moved from that one spot smce she had come upon Eyker in her cottage, and now she 
sat down in the chair across from him. "Will you convert?" She wanted to persuade him 
to do so, but didn't want to pressure him mto doing anything he didn't believe in, like 
her father had tried do by attempting to convince her that the man he had promised her 
to would make a good husband. 

Eyker sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Time passed before he finally 
answered, "They say your God is forgiving and not as violent. They call us heathens 
while we worship the Norse gods but do not fear us any less once we have converted. If 
your God is so forgiving, why can't his people be as well?" He looked up, eyes pleadmg 

"We have raided, pillaged, some have raped and killed mercilessly in the names of 
all of our gods, but have Catholics never used force to extend their rule?" 

He reached out over his abandoned sword and gripped her hand which had been 
resting on the table in one of his. He was warm, shockingly warm, despite the chilled 
tone of his voice. "If Odin left Asgard and arnved at the gates to Heaven," he contin- 
ued. "Would God accept him and forgive him for his Blasphemy, or would Odin 
attempt to slay him smce he is barbanc? Is Satan just a new manifestation of Loki, 
always the trickster, playing a jest upon the world?" 

His thumb was stroking the palm of her hand in a gentle caress, disrupting her 
focus to where she only heard every other word of what he was saying. Marsali tned to 
pull away but his gnp was firm. She looked up from their hands to face him. 

"So tell me, Marsali, why change my beliefs if there is no tiling to prove that what I 
am doing is really for die best? If Odin and the other gods can be doubted after our 
people have lived for them for so long How can another God be trusted if ours are to 
be proven false?" 

The pain in his eyes moved her, but Marsali didn't know what to say. He loosened 
his gnp on her hand, and she yanked it back, feeling foolish for doing so. Her hand felt 
as though it had been branded, but her awareness of it was meaningless. His pain 
moved her, and she couldn't stop herself from stepping away from the table and resting 
her shaky hand upon his shoulder and watching as he closed his eyes as he exhaled the 
breath that he had held since his admission. Marsali left him mometarilv to gather up 
some cheese and a loaf of crusty bread out of the chest near the hearth and place them 
in front of Eyker. "Ye can stay here until yer warriors arnve. God would wish it." 

A fortnight passed, and still no warriors arnved. With everyday that passed, Eyker 
felt Marsali's guard slip more and more. She even quit clutching the dagger she thought 
he was unaware of, and apologized for having him make his pallet beneath a large tree 
just outside the cottage using his wolf furs and a blanket Marsali had been kind enough 
to lend him. When Marsali coyly suggested he move his pallet into the cabin by the 
door, Eyker refused. It was already too tempting being around her to nsk ruining her 
trust m him by letting himself lay that close to her at night. He had controlled his lust 
for the past fortnight due to the distance he put between them dunng the night. 

Soft light from daybreak spilled through the trees above him, reminding him that 
he had many responsibilities he had. He had slept very little the past few nights, 
disturbed by dreams of acts he had sworn he would not pursue. The dned crunch of 
footsteps over autumn leaves diverted his attention from the troublesome thoughts the 
woman inside the cottage had aroused. There was a shuffling rhythm of one foot 

20 Calliope 



followed bv another in a slow, precise manner. Whoever it was wanted to be heard. 

Evker leaned over and reached for his sword, which was always close at hand for 
situations as this, when a cold, sharp poke at his back brought him to a halt. 

"The Great Evker, ]arl and fierce warrior with eyes forged from the great fjords of 
Norway. Sleeping in the dirt when a cottage lies there? You've lost your helmet, I see." 

"Are vou a bard now, Gunnar? I have slept on the ground before, sheath your 
sword. A woman sleeps in the cottage, and I left my helmet there as well. I didn't feel it 
served much purpose." 

"I should have been a bard," Gunnar returned his sword to its leather scabbard and 
stepped back to allow Evker room to stand. 

"Aye? Why are you not?" 

"Singing is not my strong point; besides, I much prefer to run our enemies through 
than spin tales about it." 

Evker couldn't help but smile. Gunnar stood there before him, standing only 
slightly shorter than Eyker himself, wearing his chain mail armor that had dulled with 
wear over a green tunic that clung to his wide, muscled figure, and matching trews. His 
iron helmet had a dragon welded onto the front of it, whose head formed the plate that 
covered the bridge of his nose and hidmg the nearly-black, straight hair which hung to 
his shoulders. He had dark brown eyes, the color of his sword belt, and his beard had 
been braided at the sides, framing his mouth and giving him the appearance of a walrus. 

"Did you say a woman?" Gunnar arched a brow. 

"Aye." 

"Comely?" 

'You will not touch her." 

Gunnar waved the thought aside, "Do you claim her then?" 

"Mayhap. Where are the others?" 

Gunnar cocked his head to the side and regarded him silently before answering. 
"We made camp not far from here. I was hunting." He indicated the wooden bow 
hanging over his shoulder. "Come with me." 

Eyker nodded in consent, and they slunk through the overgrowth of bracken and 
bushes like two foxes. Some while later, Eyker had gone to remove the arrow from the 
doe he had struck down, leaving Gunnar to watch for the hare they had seen hop along 
moments earlier. 

Hunching over, Eyker retneved the broken end of the arrow out of the limp deer 
carcass. The already reddish brown fur now had mats of a darker crimson smeared 
within it; the artistry of Eyker's predatory victory. 

A soft thump of lifeless weight hitting the ground somewhere behind him caused 
him to glance up. Gunnar had dropped a large hare at the base of a distorted tree trunk 
that was bulbous at the base and went upwards in a twisted cacophony of limbs and 
dying leaves. The sun came through in slivers of vivid warmth that overcame the chilly 
wind that would occasionally rip through the woods, allowing Eyker to view the brilliant 
red upon his companion's hands, even from some distance away. 

Gunnar looked up to see Eyker staring at his hands "Do you recall the eve of our 
first battle? You stared at the caked blood on your hands for so long that Old Olaf had 
to carry you off to the steam bath and bathe you himself." 

Calliope 21 



Eyker tore his gaze away from tiny red smear on his own hand, left from removing 
the deer's skewer, and wiped his hand on an unsoiled patch of its fur, "That was a long 
time ago." 

"Aye, it was. So what troubles you? The woman in the cottage? Afraid she might 
run off with a handsome Norseman, other than yourself?" 

"Mayhap you credit your abihty with the women far more than you should? Did the 
others convert like they wanted to?" 

"Women love me. As for the others, they will not convert unless you give them 
your blessing. You are our Jarl now, and we will follow your orders no matter what they 
may be." 

"They cannot wish me to carry the burden of our beliefs for them?" Eyker gasped, 
looking up from the deer carcass. 

"Aye, we can," Gunnar said. "A jarl is never wrong." He snatched up the fat, gray 
hare. Curling his Up, he dropped it again before expelling a disgusted "Ughhhh." 

Eyker raised a brow at his friend's antics before he noticed the brownish glob that 
had smeared across Gunnar 's hand and was also on the matted fur of the hare. "While I 
pride myself to believe so, my father is still jarl." He struggled not to laugh. 

Gunnar glared at Eyker. "Aye, but he was one foot into his own funeral pyre when 
our longship took to the sea. If he had wished for you to see him die as an old man 
rather than as a warrior, we would all be there watchmg the flames drift out to sea. 
Laugh all you like, mayhap your fnend there left you a gift as well. The black-hearted 
fiend." Gunnar pointed at the lifeless deer before wiping his hand across the twisted, fat 
tree behind him. "Let Bjorn have the hare. For the sakes of us all, don't eat tins." He 
kicked the rabbit a few feet ahead of him, where after a few lumpy flops it halted with 
black eyes gazing straight up at nothing. 

"Quit playing with your food, just because Aud preferred Bjorn over you does not 
mean he should be given the hare." 

"I'll tell him to clean it first!" Picking the hare up by its back feet and holding it out 
away from him, Gunnar sped up his pace to catch up with Eyker. "Aud would have 
chosen me," he began as he matched Eyker's stnde. "Only there was that one mght 
when I drank so much mead that I spent the night in the stable. Imagine my surprise 
when I woke to find Bjorn's sister covering me like a warm bear fur. What did Bjorn 
need with a horse in the middle of the day anyhow?" 

"I can only wonder. Considering that she died of some flux not too long after that, 
you had Loki on your side." Eyker said. 

"Ah, well, Loki always did favor me, didn't he? What of this woman you have 
locked away in your crumbly little cottage? Is she so fair that you do not wish her to be 
seen by another man m fear that she may prefer him over you? Bjorn could be a 
problem, that whoreson." He said the last bit to himself. "Could it be that a wench has 
finally captured your eyes after all this time or maybe she's captured other parts." 

Eyker glowered at him. "Jest some more little brother, for your crimes are adding 
up against you." 

As they came to the clearing and the cottage once more, Eyker said, "Wait here." 
He dropped the deer and made his way in the direction of the cottage. 

Marsali paced around the cottage. She had been doing so all morning since she 

22 Calliope 



woke from a troubled sleep, periodically pausing to tidy something up in an attempt to 
clear her mind. And then she saw the helmet staring ominously at her. He left it there 
just to taunt her, the wee devil. She snorted when she realized she just described him as 
small when the man was a giant. 

Since her mother's death, her father pushed her to marry. Marsali thought that if 
she was to marry, she should have some say into who it would be. As payment to a debt 
her father owed was not her grounds of marriage, and her father had enough wealth to 
pav them off without sacrificing her happiness to do so. It would be to a man who was 
braw and passionate about lus beliefs. Eyker came to mind immediately and she 
dismissed it with a laugh. She picked up his helmet and studied the detailed craftsman- 
ship of it with even more runic inscriptions. It looked no different from any other 
knight's armor other than the runes, but he was still one of the Northmen, making him 
forbidden to her. 

The door crashed open, slammmg loudly against the wall. Eyker regarded it for a 
moment with a frown before turning his attention to her and then stalked in with a 
determined stride. His chiseled jaw, noticeable even with the beard, was set stubbornly 
in a fashion that let her know he had come to ask something of her and was determmed 
to get it. 

"Sorry for startling you." He said, motioning nonchalantly at the door still ajar. 

"Well ye should be, barging in like a savage beastie and all," Marsali said. His pale 
blue eyes were darker than usual, like a stormy sky. 

"Mv warriors arnved through the night." 

Marsali 's heart lurched. She looked away from him. "Oh. I see. I guess ye will be 
needing this back then?" She held the helmet out to him without meeting his eyes. 

His fingers brushed hers as he took the helmet. Marsali felt her bottom lip tremble 
slightly. She bit down on it, hoping Eyker hadn't noticed. 

His free hand cupped her check. His thumb caressed her lip. "Do not be sad." 

"What are y-mmmfh!" His mouth closed on hers and captured her words before 
she could get them out. 

The helmet hit the floor with a clatter, and he fisted his hand in her hair behind her 
head. His other hand moved from her face, slid down her arm, and pulled her close, 
splayed against the small of her back. She tasted like she'd been eating warm, sweet 
berries, and his head swam with it. She pushed at his shoulders and he leaned back, 
breathing heavily. 

"What is wrong with ye?" Marsali gasped out the words, wondermg how she had 
managed to become wedged between the wall and Eyker when she didn't remember 
moving at all. Her lips tingled, feeling numb and fuller than they had ever felt before. 

"I'm sorry; I should not have done that." 

Eyker turned, scooped up his fallen helmet, and left without a second glance. 

Gunnar sat on a fallen tree at the edge of the clearing, away from the front of the 
cabin, which was almost invisible due to the wild growth of the swamp of green 
bracken that surrounded it. With the dead deer and hare at his feet, he had taken his 
helmet off, and was in the process of braiding a lock of hair at his temple, when Eyker 
reemerged from the cottage expressionless and walking toward the woods as though he 
didn't see anything that stood in front of him. Before Eyker had gotten very far, 

Calliope 23 



movement from behind him caught Gunnar's eye; a fierv haired woman was racing after 
him from the cottage, and she was scowling 

Scowling! Gunnar had never seen a woman scowl at Eyker before. But this one 
reached out and grabbed Eyker's arm and tugged at it to bnng him to a halt. Thor's 
hammer, the wench was yelling at him. What did he do to her? Deny her his bed? 
Gunnar rubbed his eyes and looked again. She was still carrying on about something, 
but he could only hear random words. Gunnar lowered himself into the bracken, 
carefully avoiding the soiled hare, and inched forward on his elbows and stomach 
towards Eyker and the woman who was evidently domg nodiing more than amusmg 
Eyker. He had taken on the stance and half gnn he took when the bards back home 
began spinning fantastical tales about him in battle that Eyker hated to hear. 

"What in God's name was that about?" 

"Missing me already?" Eyker asked, smirkmg to himself. 

"\\7i-what is..Ye canna go around assuming anything ye like about people!" Marsak 
shrieked. 

"Aye, I can. I'm }arl." Eyker said as diough they were having a normal conversation. 

"This is Scotland." She hissed through clenched teeth. 

"Mayhap." 

"Mayhap? Mayhap! Ye canna barge into a country and act like ye are king!" 

"I do not want to rule die country." 

"Oh, nay, ye want to rule over me!" Marsali wanted to shake sense mto him. 

Eyker spun around and reached out for her, but Marsali pulled away from him. 
"What gives you that idea? Have I ever demanded anything of you?" 

"Nay but ye are treating me as though I am one of yer subjects that ye are too 
good to be found with in tiieir private quarters. Ye just kissed me, Eyker. Kissed me! 
And then ye just prance off to your warriors and leave me behind as ye said ye would." 

"Come widi me." 

"Oh, nay, so ye can rule over me?" 

"I want to make you mme is all! You will be my wife, not my thrall." 

"Mayhap there is no difference. My father is one of Kenneth's thanes, he would 
find out eventually and come after us. He'd kill ye without thinking twice about it and 
proclaim me to be a whore and leave me to who ever would have me." 

"If your father is smart, he would see the advantage to having a score of Norse 
warnors as allies." Eyker scratched his chin as he answered. He grew weary of the 
dispute. 

"Ye kent about my father die whole time, didn't ye? I bet you planned to gain land 
as a bnde price, too. Ye only stayed around on his orders." 

' Y bu only just told me about him! Are you daft? I do not care what your father 
has. I only want you. You!" He reached a hand out to her and she backed up a step. 

'Ye are not a Christian. I canna marry ye even if I did want to because of that." 
She turned away from him. 

"And if I converted?" 

Marsak whirled back around to face him, gawking at him. "I would never be able to 
live with myself if ye converted just to get mto my bed!" 

"If I only wanted to share your bed, I would have taken you on the first night I met 

24 Calliope 



you. Do not dare feign surprise with me; I have wanted you since a full fortnight ago!" 

"But ve can't convert over something as unimportant as a woman. 

Eyker threw his helmet down carelessly in exasperation mid cupped her face m his 
palms, holding her gaze. "Not for any woman, for a woman. Don't you see? My gods 
have forsaken me, but your God gave me you. You should have sent me on my way, yet 
vou trusted me to stay with you even though you had no way to defend yourself if I was 
a real threat to you." His gaze dropped to her delicate, pink lips. "Mayhap I am a threat 
to you. . ." He thought he |ust might kiss her once more when the sound of a throat 
clearing nearby caught his attention. Marsali heard it too, for she jerked away from him 
and pulled her dagger from its hidden pocket in her dress. 

Gunnar spoke near his feet. "Tell the besom to put the dagger away, Eyker." 

"Gunnar, what are you domg hiding in the weeds?" Eyker asked. 

"I did not wish to disrupt you. . ." 

"Yet you did" Eyker said through his teeth. 

"I admire your desire to make merry in the middle of the bracken, and I mayhap 
would not have watched, but we have get back. ..." 

Eyker sighed, and motioned for Gunnar to collect the deer. Once he w T as sure his 
fnend could no longer hear him, he turned back to Marsali who was still clutching her 
dagger and gawking after Gunnar in disbelief. 

"Will you?" 

"Did he just say mayhap he wouldna watch?" 

Eyker chuckled. "Aye, mat he did." He took her hand in his to draw her attention 
back to him. "Will you come with me?" 

"And be your wife?" 

Eyker nodded, his throat felt like he had swallowed a ball of wool. 

Marsali smiled and nodded. "Aye. I supposed I will, but didna be shocked when ye 
find yourself facing an angry, braw Scot named MacRae sometime soon." 

"Don't fash yourself about that now Go get your cloak and let us go and I will 
introduce you to my warriors." 

Gunnar jomed him with the deer over his shoulder, still carrying die hare away 
from liis body "She's fiery" Gunnar said, eyeing her backside as she entered the cottage. 

"Touch her and not even our fnendslup will save you." 

"I do not desire to steal your woman, Eyker." 

"Do you tliink die others will approve?" 

"Of her?" Gunnar pointed towards the cottage. "Are you daft? She's got the fury 
of a Norsewoman within her. You could not have found a better match." 

"Nay, not Marsali. I am converting." 

"I heard. . ." He looked thoughtful, gazing at the ground. "I will not." 

"Nay?" 

"Nay The odiers mayhap will, but I kent you since before we had beards. You 
would blame yourself if the way of our ancestors was lost. I will stay the heathen, if 
you give me your word not to let the Christians stone me to death." 

Eyker smiled but did not look at his friend. "Aye. You have my word." 

Gunnar glanced up finally to see that Marsali had rejoined diem, stopping firmly at 
Eyker's side. 

Calliope 25 



Mother Nature's Garden 

Elena Fodera 

Fruit grew from the Wisdom Tree, 

ripe and juicy, starlight grown 

from perfect glossy shining seeds, 

oh-so-gently sown. 

Reaching upwards, mighty, strong, 

greater than all trees yet known, 

growing tall 

by the Garden wall 

made of ancient stone. 

Mother Nature's garden, 

where the Thoughtfulness Fountain flows, 

Her place of peace, Her place of rest, 

where no one but She ever goes. 

She sleeps and breathes, She works and creates, 

with never-calloused hands of rose 

which move with such grace 

as the lips on Her face, 

a more radiant smile than any man knows. 

I saw her silver turquoise eyes 

set above a cheek so fair, 

and the chirping crickets ceased their song 

whenever her voice floated on the air. 

She sang in tune with only the Wind, 

as the Garden's other sounds did not dare; 

He never stopped blowing 

through her long and flowing 

windy weeping willow hair. 

And I saw never-aging Mother Earth; 

who sees all joy and sees all pain: 

Winter Spring Summer Fall, 

from month to month, from wax to wane. 

She watches her garden, morning noon night, 

and watches as the clouds bang rain. 

She thrives forever in her prime, 

ageless and transcending time, 

from day to day, not one the same. 



26 Call 



lope 




Lunar Moth 

Color Photograph 
Luciana Carneiro 



Calliope 27 



Resistance 

Virginia Gnbben 

Claire has a laundry list of odd tendencies; some may even dare to say that 
she is a litde obsessive-compulsive. For example, if she gets hit on one 
arm she hits the other to even it out. She's been known to do strange 
things like zip and unzip her purse in successions of three. She is almost physically 
incapable of eating any food that has touched another food on her plate. For the most 
part, she tries to keep these quirks to herself but there is one thing that she cannot 
stand; it drives her to distraction when a person's tag sticks out of their clothes. If she 
sees this she has the urgent need to fix it. Once Claire sees a tag, the tag is all that she 
can focus on, the lights dim, her palms sweat and she has the urge to bend her arms 
where there are no joints. Until Claire sees that the tag is fixed, there is no other reality, 
just Claire and the "Made in China." Her tag tucking has gotten her written up at work; 
her co-worker thought he was being sexually harassed. Claire has also been accused of 
being a pickpocket. In short, her tag obsession has gotten her into plenty' of trouble. 
Sunday morning, Claire sits in church and she cannot concentrate on what 
Father Hess is saying. The only thing Claire can see is a white rectangle taunting her 
from the waistband of a black Chanel pantsuit. There is no priest, no blood of Christ, 
no effigy of Jesus, dying for her sins. "Size four, dry clean only, size four, dry clean 
only" is being chanted instead of "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy 
name." Claire knows that it's only a matter of time before she reaches forward and 
really pisses off Mrs. Wicker by tucking her tag. The woman has made it clear that 
Claire must keep her hands off of her person, or else. Claire is not sure what "else" is, 
but she doesn't want to find out. Mrs. Wicker has given her plenty of warnings, and she 
is feisty. 

With her hands shaking, tucked in her pockets, Claire focuses on Jesus' face; his 
forlorn expression seems only to be for her. Claire keeps staring, letting her guilt wash 
over her. She starts a new chant in her head, "Jesus will be mad, Jesus will be mad, Jesus 
will be mad." She knows that if she can keep this up for a few more minute, Mrs. 
Wicker will rise for communion and take her taunting tag with her. Suddenly the tag 
appears where Jesus was, and then it is gone, off to receive the body of Christ. Claire 
resumes normal breathing, grabs her purse to go to communion and ducks out of mass 
before it's over; her pride in resisting overpowers her guilt of leaving. Jesus will under- 
stand. 



28 Calli 



ope 




Meagon's Hill 

Digital Painting with Photoshop 
Greg Ferrell 



Calliope 29 




The Bunny Who Gave Up Life 

Charcoal Drawing 
Anita Brunner 



30 Calliope 



Baby Doll 

Leah DiNatale 

Kennedie felt the scorching, yellow rays of the florescent spotlight spilling 
out over the top of her head and radiating out into the audience. She felt 
as if she were being cooked slowly from the outside in. Her cerulean 
crowning dress felt stifling hot, like a large baking bag. She could feel small beads of 
perspiration forming under the puffy shoulder sleeves of the dress. 

Under the sweltering lights, Kennedie could smell the spray tan Miss Barbara had 
given her yesterday afternoon. It smelled like an overpowering mixture of year old 
suntan lotion and sweat; Kennedie wanted to throw up all over the shiny, brown hard 
wood boards covering the broad stage. 

J sure do wish those lights weren't so bright. Kennedie was careful not to let her big smile 
fade. 

"Kennedie when you get up there on that stage you better not start fidgeting, you 
understand me? I paid a dollar for each of them Swarovksi crystals on that dress. That's 
a thousand dollars, Kennedie. Daddy only puts 10,000 dollars in the fund for a whole 
year. I better see my thousand dollars sparklin' when they put that crown on your head. 
Stand still. I'm tryin' to make sure this fall doesn't come out. If I don't pin it in tight 
enough your hair will fall out on the middle of the stage," Angie said in a muffled voice, 
holding a large, thick bobby pin between her teeth. 

"KENNEDIE LYNN JILES DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM ME!" Kennedie 
winced as she felt the familiar pinch of pins being dug into her scalp. 

"Kennedie, don't move away from me when I'm tryin' to fix your hair. I'm only 
gonna tell you one more time. You understand me? I swear it will fall out if I don't pin 
it tight enough. We won best hair in Little Miss Peach County with this fall. We want to 
win best hair again. Taylor Barfield always wins best hair, but we got her with this." 

The thick, platinum wig stopped at Kennedie 's waist and was well worth Angle's 
500 dollars. There was no way Kennedie could ever hope to win the best hair award 
with her own limp hair, much less the title of Little Miss Alabama against Taylor 
Barfield. Even Angie herself had to admit Taylor's long, glossy black hair was beautiful. 

"Ok, there Kennedie. It's in. Now all you got to do is walk to the center of the 
stage and make sure that you pose the way you've been practicin' with Miss Amy. You 
understand me, Baby Doll? " Angie held Kennedie tightly by her thin shoulders. 

"Kennedie, you don't want that Taylor Barfield to beat you, do you? That snotty 
little girl and her momma think that they can just steal the title of Little Miss Alabama 
nght out from under us," Angie said as she patted Kennedie's fake yellow curls and 
smoothed the skirt of her stiff crowning dress. 

Angie took a loud gulp of Diet Coke from the can sitting next to her box of 
bobby pins on the counter in front of the large dressing room mirror. She wished the 
Diet Coke had a shot of }im Beam mixed in. The two shots she took at 10:00 that 
morning were starting to wear off. Kennedie's pageants always made Angie so nervous. 
It was almost as if she were getting up on the stage herself Angie never went to any of 
Kennedie's pageants without }im Beam; pageants were way too stressful without her old 

Calliope 31 



buddy. She usually snuck a bottle into Kennedie's duffle bag, but she hadn't had time 
this morning. 

Crap. Today is going to be a long day. Angie took another long swig of her Diet Coke. 

"Kennedie, I saw Taylor's momma staring at your new crowning dress during 
dress rehearsals yesterday, Kennedie. She's scared, Baby Doll, real scared. This dress is 
just gorgeous on you, and she knows it. Blue looks so much better on you man yellow 
looks on her. Taylor doesn't stand a chance against us, does she, baby?" 

"No, Momma," Kennedie said quietly. 

Why does Momma hate Taylor so much? Kennedie decided not to ask her momma the 
question out loud. 

"That's my Baby Doll," Angie said with a smile as she popped a peanut M&M into 
Kennedie's mouth, as if she were an obedient poodle being rewarded for learning a new 
tnck. 

As she stood straight with her arms rigidly at her sides, palms facing out and 
down, left foot pointed forward, and right foot pointed out, Kennedie tried to remem- 
ber everything her momma had said to her backstage in the dressing room and the way 
Miss Amy had taught her to stand. It made her head hurt to try to remember so many 
things at once. 

I hate pageants so much. Daddy does, too. He always argues with Momma about how much 
money they cost. I wonder what would happen if I told him I didn 't want to do them anymore. He 
would probably let me play soft ball. 

The three layers of crinoline under the skirt of her full dress made her legs itch, 
and Kennedie had to fight the urge to scratch them. Posed so perfectly she looked like 
die life sized version of a porcelain doll. It seemed like she had been plucked from a 
stand off of a little girl's top shelf where collectable items were kept. Onstage, 
Kennedie really did look just like a doll that was too expensive to touch or ever play 
with, so delicate she would break if you turned her the wrong way. 

Kennedie's left eye started to itch too, but she knew better than to rub it or, even 
worse, squint. Both of her eyes felt heavy and tired from die thick, false eyelashes and 
runny black eyeliner that encircled her lids. She hoped the judges didn't notice the small 
pools of black goo that had begun to cake in die corner of her eyes. Over the years, 
Kennedie had mastered the art of paralyzing the muscles in her face so that her blue 
eyes stayed wide and her big, pink grin stayed painted on. It was a difficult task; her 
mouth felt sore most of die time from the brilliant white flippers that pinched her gums 
and covered her missing front toodi and permanently crooked left incisor. Conse- 
quendy, this gave her the dead, emotionless stare of a doll with blank, glass eyes. 

Kennedie was glad when the competition was over and it was crowning time. As 
she stood in line with die other girls, she knew it wouldn't be long before Mr. Burt 
walked on stage and announced die winner. 

Thank goodness. Kennedie kept smiling. 

If she looked out of the corner of her eye, she could see Mr. Burt standing just 
behind the thick, dark velvet curtain at die side of die stage. She sure was glad; soon, 
she could go home and hike her prickly dress off. 

Kennedie wanted to turn and see how Taylor looked, but she knew better than to 
take her eyes off die judges. She couldn't understand why her momma didn't like Taylor. 

32 Calliope 



She was so pretty with her long, straight, dark hair and bright yellow dress. Before they 
went onstage, Taylor smiled mid said, "I like your crowning dress. It sparkles a lot." 

Kennedie wanted to tell Taylor that yellow was her favorite color, but instead she 
just nodded, afraid that her momma could somehow see her talkmg to Taylor. As 
Kennedie stood posed onstage, loud music began to play, signaling Burt Edwards 
entrance onto the stage to begin the crowning ceremony. 

Mr. Burt, the pageant director, dressed m a black tuxedo and shiny black dress 
shoes, flitted onto the stage in his showy, dramatic way. He walked to the podium and 
began to speak mto the microphone. "Here at the Litde Miss Alabama pageant we want 
to thank everyone for coming out and having fun with us! All of these little girls are just 
absolutely gorgeous!" Burt said in his loud, smg song voice. 

It was always hard for Kennedie to figure out what exactly Mr. Burt was so excited 
about; he was always so giggly, whether he was announcing or talking to her and die 
other girls backstage. Kennedie knew pageants sure didn't make her giggle. 

'And now, without further ado, I will begin with the crownmg ceremony; Our first 
award is the Early Bird Award. This award goes to die little girl who got her application 
turned in the quickest. Our Early Bird Winner is Lindsey Andrews!" Lindsey was 
standing next to Taylor, who was wearing a deep purple dress. She stiffly raised her arm 
so that the reigning Miss Alabama, Missy Daniels, would know where to set the small 
trophy. 

I wish he would hurry up. In her anticipation, Kennedie almost forgot to smile. 

"We will now give out our awards for prettiest hair, best smile, and best dress! The 
award for prettiest hair goes to Kennedie Jiles!" As she stifily raised her arm, Kennedie 
could feel every pin sticking in her scalp. She could hear her momma's loud hollers from 
the audience. 

/ wish Momma would be quiet. It's so embarrassing when she screams like that. 

"The award for best smile is awarded to Taylor Barfield! Taylor Barfield is also the 
recipient of the best dress award!" 

"And now, what we've all been waiting for, the crownmg of the new Littie Miss 
Alabama! All of these litde girls are wmners and we just love diem so much! Our 3 ld 
runner up is. . . Miss Laura Matthews! Let's have a big round of applause for Laura 
ladies and gendemen," Burt said in a loud voice. "Our 2 nd runner up is Alyssa Stevens. 
Congratulations Alyssa! And finally. . . Our 1 st runner up is Kennedie Jiles. Our new 
Littie Miss Alabama is Taylor Barfield! Congratulations Taylor!" 

Kennedie smiled as Burt Edwards placed the silver, cubic zirconium studded 
crown on Taylor's head. For once, she was thankful that die crown was not bemg put on 
her own. "It's shiny and pretty," thought Kennedie, but she knew she had one just like it 
at home in the big cabmet in the livmg room. Besides, Taylor looked really excited when 
Mr. Burt had said she was the winner. Kennedie had decided that since die pageant was 
over it was o.k. to look beside her. 

It's pretty, but it looks heaijjust like my other one. Kennedie was relieved diat she did 
not have to carry the heavy crown on her own head. She could still remember the sharp 
pain of having bobby pins stuck mto her scalp to hold the heavy- crown in place so 
many times before. It made her tired to think about having to hold her neck stiff 
enough to keep the tiara straight on her head. 

Calliope 33 



After her initial feeling of relief, Kennedie began to feel a sickening guilt nse into 

her throat. She felt like gagging. 

What is momma gonna say'? Kenndie began to panic. She knew her momma had 
spent a lot of money on this pageant. 

/ bet Momma and Daddy are gonna get in a big fight when we get home. 

Kennedie wondered what she could have possibly done wrong in the pageant. She 
had performed her baton routine perfectly. Not missed a single twirl. She knew she had 
done her step turns perfect, exactly the way she had practiced them with Miss Amy. As 
she slowly walked off of the stage, Kennedie stared at her shiny, white, patent-leather 
Mary janes. She knew her momma would be waiting as she walked off stage. 

"Kennedie Lynn jiles, I can't believe tins! I just can't believe that we lost! It's ok 
though, Baby Doll. They stole the crown from us this time." Angie fumed in Kennedie 's 
small face after ushering her into one of the only individual dressing rooms located 
backstage. 

She locked the door, even though none of the girls were supposed to have 
personal dressing rooms. Angie didn't trust the other girls' mothers. She knew they 
might try to steal Angle's curling iron or, worse yet, the crowmng dress before Kennedie 
had the chance to put it on after her talent routine. Angie began to hastily cram all of 
Kennedie 's eye shadow, blush, pink lipstick, bobby pins, curling irons, and brushes into a 
large polka dotted duffel bag. 

"Get that dress off nght now. I paid 1500 dollars for that dress, and I don't want it 
messed up. I'm gonna have to hear about you losing from Daddy, too. Maybe the judges 
in the next pageant will have some sense." Kennedie tned to pull the heavy dress over 
the top of her head. 

"NOOO, Kennedie!!!! I've got to take your fall off first and then let you step out 
of it! You are gonna get makeup all over it!! It costs a hundred dollars to dry clean this 
dress!" 

Angie quickly picked Kennedie up and sat her on top of the counter. Kennedie 
felt like she was being scalped as Angie pulled the long wig off of the top of her head. 
Angie didn't bother to take the pins out one at a time. 

"Taylor beat us. I just can't believe it. Now we get to see her and her wannabe high 
class momma strutting around at the Miss Cobb County pageant next month, actin' like 
they're better than everybody else." Angie said angnly, as she carefully hung the 
glittering crowning dress inside the plaid garment bag Kennedie had won in the pageant 
the month before. 

Kennedie fought the urge to cry. She knew it would only make her momma get 
more upset. Crymg made her mascara run and eyes burn. Kennedie hated it when her 
eyes burned; it was worse than when they itched. 

"O.K. Kennedie, let's just see what the judges had to say. I am gonna go get those 
score sheets right now. You stay right back here in this dressing room. You understand 
me?" 

Kennedie saw her momma push the heavy dressing room door open and walk out 
into the narrow hallway that led to the auditonum entrance. Kennedie watched her walk 
away with a small sigh of relief, thankful for a temporary reprieve. She scratched her 
head hard. 



34 CalL 



ope 



At least 7 have that itchy dress off. Kennedie was thankful to finally be able to scratch 
her knee in the baggy shorts and T-shirt. She always looked forward to putting on 
comfortable clothes after one of her pageants was over. 

7 sure am glad Momma wasn't mad at me. Vm glad I didn't drop my baton or forget to smile 
when 7 did my step turn. Sometimes Kennedie's momma got mad at her after she lost a 
pageant. It didn't happen much at all. Kennedie didn't lose much either; she had learned 
how to do everything perfect over the past eight years. 

7 don 't know what Momma would do if I told her I didn 't want to be in pageants anymore. 

After she heard the familiar taps of her momma's black high heels on the tile floor 
outside the dressing room, Kennedie opened the door. Kennedie felt hot all of a 
sudden. The room didn't seem large enough for both of them. Kennedie knew her 
momma took up a lot of the room. "Let's see what the judges had to say, Baby Doll." 

As Angie flipped through the judges' notes, she read all the usual remarks 
Kennedie always received: 

"Beautiful!" 

"What a gorgeous crowning dress!" 

"What a poised little girl!" 

It was only on the last sheet that there was any kind of criticism at all. Angie 
looked at the sheet, puzzled. Kennedie noticed the perplexed looked on her mother's 
face. 

"Momma, what does it say?" Kennedie asked. 

"Kennedie, Baby Doll, don't even worry about it. That's so ridiculous . . . ." Angie 
said with a sniff. 

Momma never tells me anything. She never really listens to me and she always tells me to be quiet 
whenever I ask her anything. Pageants always put her in such a bad mood. I wish Daddy would take 
me to softball games instead. 

"Momma, I want to know what it says." 

"Fine, Kennedie" Angie said with an exasperated sigh. Pageants always made 
Angie so exhausted. How could she have forgotten her bottle of }im Beam on a day like 
today? It must have been all the stress. 

It says, ' Abur eyes weren't smiling! Try to smile with your eyes!" 

"Momma, how do I smile with my eyes?" Kennedie asked in a shaky voice as she 
gazed at herself in the large floor length mirror across from the counter she was sitting 
on top of. 

Why isn't anything 7 do ever good enough? 

"Baby, I don't know. That judge is crazy, probably just jealous that she doesn't have 
a little granddaughter as beautiful as you are. You know those judges are just mean ole' 
ladies tryin' to relive their glory days." 

Gazing into the mirror, Kennedie saw that her cherry red lipstick had begun to 
bleed around the corners of her thin lips. She smiled wide at her own reflection and 
opened her blue eyes as wide as she could. 

Maybe this is how I smile rvith my eyes. Maybe I can do it good enough if I try really hard. 
Kennedie silently looked at herself. She tned to look as happy as she could. 

7 don't look veiy happy at all. I look scared. No, not scared, I look. ..sad. Kennedie kept 
smiling anyway. 

Calliope 35 



As she continued to look into the mirror, Kennedie saw she had lipstick on her 
teeth and that the black goo that had formed in the corners of her eyes had begun to 
run; the goo burned as it spilled out and puddled beneath her bottom eyelashes. Her 
thick foundation had begun to crease and her face looked splotchy and very pale in 
certain places. Her hair was matted and tangled from scratching her head so hard. 
Kennedie finally let the corners of her mouth fall, frowning for the first time. 

"I look like a clown," Kennedie said out loud, bv accident. 

"What's that, Baby?" Angle muttered as she reached under the counter to gather a 
couple of large bobby pms that had fallen out of the box she had placed on the counter 
while Kennedie was getting ready earlier. 

"Kennedie, what did you say? I didn't hear you." 

"I said I don't want to be in pageants anymore, Momma." replied Kennedie, 
continuing to frown. 

"Excuse me?" 

"Momma, I wanna play Softball," Kennedie said looking into the mirror. 

"I bet Daddy would take me to the games." 

"Absolutely not, Kennedie. You are not going to play softball. You are going to be 
in more pageants. Little Miss Cobb County is next month. I bet if you practice real hard 
with Miss Amy you can win that one, that way you'll qualify to be in Little Miss Ala- 
bama again next month." 

Kennedie watched herself m the mirror as she wiped her eyes with the back of 
her hand, smeanng her makeup across the middle of her round cheeks. She had even 
managed to get a little bit of the black goo on the tip of her round nose. She looked so 
silly with black makeup streaked all over her face, definitely not like a contestant in the 
Little Miss Alabama pageant. Kennedie couldn't help but laugh. As she looked at her 
face in the mirror, she thought she finally understood what the last judge had been 
trying to tell her. 

I'll ask Daddy if I can play softball when I get home. 



36 Call: 



ope 




Untitled 

Color Photograph 
Luciana Carneiro 



Calliope 37 



His Protest 

Jessica Martinez 

On Friday, 

when I passed the picketers 

and entered, 

head hung, low down, 

he did not hold my hand. 

And when the nurse called 
my surname, 
asked me to sign, 
asked me to undress, 
dress, come back again, 

he was not there. 
But on the third day, 
when they draped the sheet 
over my white legs, 
and my knees rolled 

to either side, 
as heavy as stone, 
wide as the grave, 
he was there then — 
inside me. 

He was the hard thud 
of my heart, 
he later told me, 
slowing as the fluids snaked 
through my veins, 

slowing so that I did not hear 
the slurp and gurgle 
of the aspirating machine, 
churning as it usurped 
will from my body — 

he was there then, he said, 
when the doctor touched 
my shoulder, lied to me, 
and told me, 
"It's finished." 

38 Calliope 




Solitude 

Acrylic on Canvas 
Greg Ferrell 



Calliope 39 



Die Gurke 

Joe O'Connor 

C C "T" T one y 



H 



?" 



Oh crap. Ginger, can't yon see I'm trying to sleep? Maybe if I just lay here she'll give up after 
awhile.Just as I thought these words my loving wife began to jab me in the side saying, 
"Honey, honey I'm hungry Can you run down to the store and see they have some 
cucumbers?" 

Why the hell does she want cucumbers? Screw this, I'm just gonna pretend like I'm asleep and 
pray that she'll get over her crating. 

"Malcolm, baby sweetie, honey Stop playing around please, and just go get me 
some cucumbers. I'm hungry, and you know I'm not supposed to move around a lot." 

"I know, Ginger, I know. But can it wait 'til ten?" I reached out a stick-like finger to 
caress her pale face. "We stayed up kinda late last night, and I'm just a little tired. Would 
that be okay?" 

Her nails sunk into my arm, "Malcolm just get your lazy ass out of bed and go get 
me some damn cucumbers!" 

"Jeez, woman," I said as I ripped my arm out of her grip. "Plan to kiss your baby 
with that mouth?" 

Her blue eyes shot me a glare mat said, "Sure, I'll kiss my baby, but I'm not so sure 
about kissing her daddy." 

"Fine. I'll go. Hope somebody in this town knows English." 

With that, I rolled out of bed and stumbled over to the dresser. I opened the top 
drawer and pulled on some clean boxers. I pulled open drawer number two to look for a 
shirt but noticed it was empty. I looked in drawer number three for a pair of pants and 
found it just as bare. 

Looks like I'll be wearing something off the top of hamper today, joy. 

I managed to find a somewhat clean pair of pants and mto its pockets went my 
keys, my cell phone, my English to German dictionary, and my Euro filled wallet. I 
threw on a paint-stained shirt and walked out the door. 

We had only been in Germany for two weeks by that time, and already I was hating 
it. These people were just so cheerful and happy. It made me sick whenever one of our 
neighbors would come over with some kind of cake that was made for the sole purpose 
of clogging my arteries. I mean, I would be in the middle of a perfectly healthy salad 
when there would be a ringing at the door and, lo and behold, there was Helga 
Fundermier (sounds like a stereotype doesn't she?) standing at the door holding "ein 
Willkommenkuchen." And, of course, my wife just loved it. How could she not? She 
was pregnant (or so she churned), and I was trying to diet, so she would be the only one 
eating that massive heap of transfat and sugar. 

Being that we had only just recently moved to Germany, we did not have a car (I 
took the train mto Munich), and so I had to walk half a mile down a dusty country road 
before I reached the main strip through Karlstadt. The only reason that this street was 

40 Calliope 



the main road in Karlstadt was that it had something special: stop-lights. The main road 
in Karlstadt, Dudenstrasse, housed the only three stoplights in the whole town (if you 
can call it that). Yeah, I was in the boomes. To many people this wouldn't be a problem, 
but I'm not like many people. In fact, I'm not even like most people. After a lifetime of 
living in a box, seventeen stones above the ground, under a smog filled sky, I found the 
openness of the country rather imposing. How was I supposed to get anything done 
with sun shining in my face all da} - ? 

You see, back in New jersey, things were different. There I was the director of 
creative affairs for the tn-state area (New jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), the one 
who set employee morale boosting programs, community service programs, and the 
like. And while I onlv had to gather together the ideas from my lackeys and sign my 
name to their ideas, the job was harder than it sounds. At work I was known as a hard- 
ass, but someone had to keep those hippies to the deadlines. But once I got back home 
from Smith & Global, Ginger took the reins. And that was the way we liked: I was 
relieved of all responsibility as soon as I walked in the door and gave Ginger a kiss 
hello. 

But our routine started to change in November when I accepted a top position 
Munich mat would start in February. I had known about the opening for a few months 
and, after talking it over with the wife, we both decided to jump at the opportunity to 
live abroad. But what I didn't know was that Ginger would let her excitement about 
moving overseas get in the way of keepmg the house together after I came home from 
work. I started making our meals and doing the dishes while she sat on the computer 
looking up stuff that we could do in Germany. I was glad she was excited about the trip, 
but things were getting out of hand, especially when she decided to rent our house to 
her brother while we were gone. Apparently, she thought that Smith & Global was 
gomg to find and pav for a nice house for us to live in during our stay and that we 
wouldn't need the money raised in selling our house to help pay for our jaunt in Europe. 

I bet we wouldn't be living in the boomes if I had just kicked her brother out and sold the damn 
house. 

That thought hit me just as I walked onto the hard pavement of Dudenstrasse and 
into die blinding reflection of die Sonne bouncing off the windows of Karlstadt's only 
grocery store. After walking about halfway across Dudenstrasse, my cell phone rang. 

"Hey Malcolm." 

"What's up, Ginger? I haven't got the stuff yet, so you just chill out for a little bit." 

"Oh that's great. Since you haven't found the cucumbers yet, can you get me some 
peach ice cream too?" 

Why don't you walk down here yourself. You're only two months pregnant. 

"Malcolm?" 

"Um. . .sure. I'll pick it up. Okay, I'll see you later. Bye." 
I closed my phone, looked up, blindmg myself yet again, and, nearly tripping on the 
sidewalk in the process, made my way over to the front door. The lights were off. But, 
judging from the sign on the door, Wilhelm's Lebensmittelgeschaft (whatever that hell 
that meant) would be open m a matter of minutes. So I decided to kill the ten minutes 
by looking up some kev German words. 

Cub. . . Cuba. . . cubby. . . Cub Scout. . . cuckoo. . . cuddle. . . cud- wait a second, they skipped over 

Calliope 41 



cucumber. Who skips over cucumber? Fucking bargain bin dictionaries'. Let's see if it's got 

peach. . . nope. What the hell? Did the people who wrote this cheap piece of crap not eat their fruits and 

veggies as kids? 

Grumbling over this profound lack of anything remotely helpful, I shoved the 
dictionary into my back pocket and slumped down, past the window, on to the ground. 
I closed my eyes, stretched my legs across the sidewalk, and thought back to that fateful 
evening back home. 

It was the evening of January 6 th and my presentation to the board of directors was 
due on the morning of the 8 a \ but I still managed to find enough time to sit down to a 
healthy dinner before rushing back to my work. As I walked into our dimly lit dining 
room, I eyed my wife and, noticing that she was glowing, slid down mto my chair. 

"What's got you in such a good mood tonight?" I asked as she twirled her auburn 
hair around a finger like a schoolgirl playing hard to get. 

"Oh," she smiled "you'll find out soon enough, just relax and enjoy your salad and 
soon everything will be much, much clearer." 

"Um. . .okay." I'm not much for mystery, so I figured I could trust Ginger about 
telling me everything that was going on. In the meantime, I dove into the mountainous 
pile of lettuce, carrots, onions, and other assorted vegetables that my doctors had finally 
succeeded in restricting my diet to after my cholesterol spike in November, just as I 
reached out for my glass of water, I noticed something strange. 

"Wait a second. You have a steak." 
Yea— 

"But I thought you were going to help me stay on my diet by eating the same stuff 
I had to? I mean you even said sometlung about needing to drop a few pounds and that 
it wouldn't be a big deal t— " 

"Well, you see, Malcolm, something's come up winch," she chewed on her Up, "has 
...um complicated the situation." 

I cocked my eyebrow toward the ceiling, "Really? WTiat makes it so you can't go on 
a diet?" 

"Honey, I'm still eating a salad," she motioned to the pathetic pile of greens on the 
tiny plate in front of her, "because I want to help you, but I can't eat only salad 
anymore. You see, I'm not just eating for myself anymore." 

A half-chewed carrot fell from my gaping jaw and bounced off the side of the 
table. 

"Wha?" 

"Malcolm, we're going to have a baby!" 

The words hung in the air like a trapeze artist caught m a photograph, and I nearly 
inhaled the rest of the salad that was m my mouth. 

"Kaggghht," I spat a forkful of saliva soaked salad mto my napkin. "Oh my God, 
Ginger. That's wonderful!" 

just as Gmger and I were about to embrace, a shadow came over me and what felt 
like a small car landed in my lap. The massive weight on my stomach and legs grinded 
my back against the concrete wall of the store, and when I tried to sit up I was blocked 
by the mountainous breasts of the obviously obese woman who was now lying on top 
of me. 



42 Calli- 



ope 



"Eselloch! Du stolperst rruch." 

Eselloch, now there's a word I know. 

"Sorry, lady, but maybe you should watch where you're walking so that you don't 
trip oyer people and flatten them like pancakes. And just for your information, that 
makes you the asshole. Now get off me, you're crushing my spleen." 

She scowled and gntted her teeth at me as she pushed herself up from the ground, 
making sure to press my legs hard against the payement as she got up and huffed her 
way mto the now open store. As soon as the door closed, I pulled myself up from the 
ground, limped mside the store, and let the florescent light wash oyer me. 

I rushed past the ever friendly door greeter and made my way to the fruit and 
yeggie section. It was in the back of the store, and to get there I had to pass through 
the frozen food aisle so I decided to just grab the peach ice cream right off die bat 
instead of coming back for it later (that was a mistake). After passing by cases upon 
cases of Schokolade I finally found a case full of fruit flayored ice cream. I stood there 
with the door of case hanging wide open for ten rrunutes or so before I got the idea to 
stop trying to read the German inscriptions and focus on the pictures. 

Okay well we're got ban ami cherry, raspberry, orange, some blueberry nut stuff. And aha peach! 

I thrust my arm mto the freezmg case of desserts and, just as I pulled back my arm 
and slammed the door shut, someone touched my shoulder. 

"Herr Ipswich? 

Just when I was hoping to get out of here without any hold tips. "Hallo Frau Fundermier. 
How are you? I mean...uh. . .uh. . . wie geht es dir?" 

"Es geht ausgezeichnet! Un du? 

I lost most of that but I knew she was having a great day and wanted to know how 
mine was going. Part of me really wanted to say exactly how crappy tilings were going, 
but in the end I decided to spare her my troubles. 

"Ah. . . Es geht gut aber I. . .ich. . ." I struggled with my dictionary "Bin. . .urn. . . 
eid...dafng." 

"Was?" She shook her head, oblivious to the fact that most of her grey hair had 
just fallen out of the bun on the top of her head and was now a tangled mess sittmg on 
her shoulder. 

I waved my ice cream at her and said, very slowly, "I'M BUSY I HA\T, TO GO." 
Wasr' 

I waved once more and then sprinted down the rest of the aisle. I was at my final 
destination; now all I had to do was find a damn cucumber and I could get the hell out 
of tins place. I paced back and forth scanning the wall mounted cases for anything 
green and, as luck would have it, all things green were lumped together in the far right 
corner. Eyeing this, I bounded over to the corner and parked myself in front of it. 
There were green beans, green squash, green apples, green grapes, green peppers, green 
onions, those funky green banana things that nobody ever buys, lettuce, zucchinis, 
celery, broccoli, limes, okra, asparagus, avocados, peas and spuiach. To be quite honest, I 
didn't tlimk I had ever seen that much green. But as much as it pleased me to see most 
of my favorite foods set out before me, I was still dumfounded that amidst tins sea of 
green there were no cucumbers to be found anywhere. Not a single one. 
"Shit." 

Calliope 43 



Any other man would have taken this lack of cucumbers to mean that his wife was 
just going to be out of luck but, as I have said before, I am not like other men. I was 
not willing face Ginger without the rather phallic object of her desire. The last time she 
sent me to hunt down her craving, I "totally ignored" her request to bring back some 
tilapia. In the past, this slight offense might have resulted in me going back to the store 
the next day for chocolate and flowers, but three weeks ago it had resulted in me 
sleeping on the couch for two days (that couch was a piece of shit and my back hurt for 
the next week after I was forced to sleep on it). I wasn't going to go through that again. 
There had to be some fucking cucumbers around here somewhere. 

A few feet over, a skinny red-headed boy in his late teens was piling carrots onto a 
display. I tapped his shoulder. 

"Kami ich he fie Sie?" 

Realizing that I didn't know how to ask him about what I needed, I held up a 
finger hoping he understood that I needed a minute and I pulled out my dictionary I 
must have looked like quite the ignorant tounst, with my greasy hair and three day 
stubble, standing there flipping through a dictionary that had a dog ear on every page. 
My search for German words must have been taking awhile because after about five 
minutes he asked: 

"Ja, was brauchen Sie?" 

"Dude, gimme a second okay? Ah, screw it." I threw down my dictionary in 
disgust. "Ich brauchen a cucumber. Where can I find some?" 

"Was brauchen Sie zu finden?" 

"Like I said: Ich brauchen a cucumber zu finden." 

His fingers slid over his tips, and his eyes looked to the ceikng. "A cucumber?" 

"Yeah, ya got any?" 

He shrugged. "Das tut mir Leid aber ich verstehe nicht." 

'Yeah, well, I don't really understand you either. Thanks for nothing, Scheisskopf" 

I walked away without even waiting for him to return my insult. I marched back to 
the stand of greens and began to sift through the piles of fruits and vegetables with the 
vain hope of finding my salvation. I ransacked every shelf from the avocados to the 
zucchinis, not caring about the stares of the faceless Germans who were picking out 
there own vegetables, but fate was still against me. Defeated, with my hands damp from 
digging through the fruits and vegetables, I walked back through the dessert aisle, where 
I should have replaced the now melting ice cream but instead made my way to a register. 

J guess I'll be sleeping on the couch again. Chalk one up to German grocery stores. Way to go, 
guys! 

I stepped in line behind an elderly German lady, and began to think up some very 
elaborate lies to tell my wife upon my return. 

Honey, I walked to the store, but when I got there it was on fire. There were firefighters all over 
the place. I told them about how you were pregnant and just needed a cucumber, but they didn 't 
understand and just ignored me. J even sneaked in the back, but one of the firefighters grabbed me and 
dragged me out of the store before I could get to the vegetables. 

No, that's not gonna work; I still have the ice cream. This one might though. Ginger, J got those 
cucumbers for you, but when I got to the register, the manager came out from the back and told me that 
I couldn 't buy them because he said there was a recall on them. Yeah, I know it's weird that they would 

44 Calliope 



keep recalled stuff out on the shelves, but J git ess they do stuff differently here. But hey, I was able to